In triathlon, with all the long or intensive sessions every day (or sometimes both), it can be a challenge to give the body everything it needs. I've been on a plant-based diet for over a year now and it works perfectly for me. At the moment, with 20 to 35 hours of training every week, I need more than 4,000 calories every day.
Here's what a full day of eating looks like for me.
I start the day with a workout before breakfast. I live by the slogan "earn your breakfast". At the moment, as it's cold and dark until 9am or even 10am here in Germany, I like to go for an early swim with an Espresso and nothing else.
What I use for fuel during my workout depends on the type of session. If it's endurance or technique-based, I'll take a bottle of BCAA drink to the pool in order to protect my muscles. If it's a hard workout, for example speed work, I'll go with a carb-loaded drink and use that from halfway through the session and sip on it on the way home in the car.
Once I'm back home, I'll usually go for porridge, made with almond milk and a banana. It has everything I need: carbs, protein, calories and it's warm which is nice after a swim on a cold day.
Usually, a bike session will be next on the agenda. So, after my porridge, I'll take a break of an hour or two before I get on the bike. Again, nutrition depends: if it's a long endurance ride, I'll go with mostly water and electrolytes. If it's a hard workout, I'll take my race drink on the bike in order to be able to keep pushing hard watts.
After the ride, I always have the same: banana, crushed ice, peanut butter, vegan protein powder, almond milk, sprouted seeds, maybe some frozen berries, and some more fruit if I feel the need. This is the perfect fuel as it helps my immune system to stabilize again and it boosts my protein for the day.
I'll take another break then it's time for a run. If the run is slow for recovery and/or technique, I'll not eat anything and will have some water about 45 minutes before I go.
If it's a hard run, such as intervals, I'll try to get some carbs in. This might be in the form of (yet another) ripe banana with waffles and chocolate cream. I eat what I feel my body needs at the time.
After my run, I'll drink some water and maybe take some Gluatmin or BCAA again until it's time for dinner. Dinner is mainly vegetables - anything you can imagine, heated in whatever way is easiest. I'll have a base of carbs, such as rice, quinoa or wholewheat pasta. Added to that, I'll have fat such as an avocado, nuts, or seeds.
1 or 2 hours after that, I sometimes feel the need to eat before going to bed. This could be some sort of soy yogurt with a few nuts and cacao nibs. I've found that for myself, if my body is crying out for something, I get it and have it!
Nic is a triathlete so needs to fuel his swim, bike, and run training to keep healthy and see good results. He tells Sundried what a full day of eating looks like.
I always have porridge for breakfast. I make it with half a cup of oats, a cup of milk, and microwave it for 4 minutes, stirring half way. I then mix in a dessert spoon of crunchy peanut butter, half a scoop of protein powder (I'm using white chocolate flavor at the moment), some chopped nuts (cashews, pistachios, and pecans), and sliced banana. It's a great mix of carbs, protein, and healthy fats to smooth the insulin response and to release energy over a longer period of time.
For a snack, about 30 minutes before exercising, I'll have an apple. Golden Delicious are my favourite.
I'll have lunch as soon after exercise as I can. Lunch is usually pasta or brown rice with chopped tomatoes, spring onions, avocado, diced jalapenos, tuna, and an olive oil and red wine vinegar vinaigrette. If I can't eat straight away, then I'll have a protein bar to bridge the gap. The Grenade Carb Killa bar is good, as it is low in sugar and high in protein.
My wife cooks dinner; she likes to eat healthily and has lost nearly 5 stone in the last two years. On a typical weekday, we will have something like a chicken stir-fry with five spice, onions, mangetout, and baby corn.
I always make sure I drink plenty to stay hydrated. I have a 2.2l water bottle, which I use to fill a pint glass. I start every morning with a pint of water, then have a peppermint and licorice tea with my breakfast.
Supplement-wise, the only thing I think is needed is Vitamin D. We need this, especially, during the winter, as the sun in the UK is not strong enough to synthesise vitamin D.
As a triathlete, training for three sports means that sufficient fuelling becomes essential. Not only is it about getting the right nutrition in order to hit each session optimally, it is also about recovering sufficiently in between sessions.
I have also been a vegetarian for life, so managing protein consumption can sometimes present a challenge, especially during harder training blocks.
As I also work (I run a marketing business), my weekdays usually consist of lighter training, usually one or two sessions per day at no longer than 1 hour each. Weekends tend to involve longer training days with multiple sessions.
In this respect, I usually increase my protein consumption early on in the week to help my body recover from the increased output over the weekend. Mid-week tends to be lighter and lower in carbs, as my body doesn’t require as much fuel when training is reduced. Towards the end of the week, I increase carbs in preparation for the weekend’s training, and over the weekend, I tend to increase my calorie consumption to compensate for harder/longer training days.
What I Eat In A Day
6am – Coffee and usually a light pre-swim breakfast of 3 Nutribrex (gluten-free sorghum cereal) with a tablespoon of pecan butter, a handful of blueberries, and hazelnut milk, or homemade blueberry and almond bircher muesli.
6.30am – 2.5k-3.5k swim, usually either a focused drill session or a threshold set.
10am – I am usually in my client's office or in my own home office by this point so I will eat a banana and have another coffee to keep me alert for meetings.
12.30pm – I try to take a salad into work most days or if I'm at home I prepare one. Usually a base of dark leaves such as watercress, rocket and spinach, with plenty of fresh salad ingredients such as tomatoes, beetroot, cucumber, celery, and then usually some protein such as falafel, quinoa, lentils or hummus. I always have 2 squares of dark chocolate after lunch – guilty pleasure!
3pm – I’m usually hungry and need to fuel for my second session, so will often have something like rice cakes or oat cakes with seed butter and a piece of fruit. Usually also a herbal tea.
5pm – Indoor bike session on the turbo, usually hard intervals lasting one hour. I take a Nuun hydration tablet in my water as I tend to sweat a lot during these sessions.
6pm – Before I jump in the shower I will have an Active Edge Cherry Active sachet in water for recovery and also probably something like a CocoPro for an instant protein hit.
7pm – Dinner is usually something fairly quick and simple with lots of vegetables. My go-to dinner is stir fried vegetables and tofu in soy sauce (no rice or noodles) as it’s so easy to make and so rich in micronutrients.
7.30pm – I usually have a piece of fruit, something like a passionfruit, stirred into 0% fat Greek yoghurt maybe with a half teaspoon of turmeric or cinnamon.
8.30pm – I tend to have a hot drink, usually Amber Aminos from Aminoman. It contains all the necessary amino acid complex and herbal remedies to help improve recovery, reduce inflammation, boost energy and optimise performance.
9pm – I go to bed pretty early due to my busy days!
About the author: Amy Kilpin has qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships twice as well as representing GBR at the European and World Long Distance Championships.
For most people, eating enough protein per day can be a struggle. But what about eating too much protein? Is there such a thing? What happens when you consume too much protein?
Can you have too much protein?
Yes, it is possible to consume too much protein. When you consume more protein than your body needs, the excess calories are turned into fat and stored within the body. You can't store extra amino acids or protein for later use, so the amino acids are simply excreted through urine and wasted. Therefore, there is absolutely no point consuming more protein than you need to.
But what happens when you do go overboard? If you are eating far too much protein, there is a good chance you won't be eating enough carbs. This means not enough fibre and nutrients from fruit and vegetables. You may also be lacking sugar which promotes healthy brain function.
How many grams of protein a day is too much?
Guidelines state that an adult man should take in a minimum of 10% of his daily calories from protein. This equates to 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight, so a 12 stone (168lbs) man would need roughly 60g of protein per day.
However, for athletes and people who are very active, this can rise to up to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight; so if this 12 stone man was an active bodybuilder or triathlete, he may need up to 168g of protein per day to meet the needs of his muscles.
If you live a sedentary lifestyle whereby you work an office job and only do a limited amount of exercise, you won't need that much protein in your diet. Eating healthy, lean protein sources each day like chicken, turkey, eggs, and nuts and seeds part of a balanced diet will be all you need to achieve your protein needs. Unless you train a lot, you shouldn't need to add protein shakes into your daily diet. For more information on dietary supplements, read our article on the top 5 supplements for beginners. If you think that drinking protein shakes can help you lose weight, read our article which answers the question of should I use protein shakes to lose weight.
Is it bad if you eat too much protein?
As with everything, too much is a bad thing and it's best to have everything in moderation. Consuming too much protein really isn't an issue many people need to worry about, however if you do think you're consuming too much, there are negative implications. The main negative effect of consuming too much protein is weight gain, however there are other side effects such as dehydration and kidney problems.
The health implications of not eating enough protein are actually worse than consuming too much. If you don't think you're eating enough protein, here are 3 easy ways anyone can get more protein into their diet.
What're the signs you're eating too much protein?
As mentioned above, any excess protein you consume will be tuned into fat and stored in the body. If you are eating too much protein you are probably eating too many calories, which will always result in weight gain.
The body has to use more water to flush out the excess protein from your body, so if you consume too much protein you will end up dehydrated. If you feel dehydrated despite drinking plenty of water, it could be a sign of consuming too much protein. Always make sure you're drinking plenty of water, especially if you train a lot. Up to 3 litres a day is optimal.
Your kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from your body. By consuming too much protein on a regular basis, you could damage your kidneys by over-exerting them. You would have to eat far too much protein for a very long time to do any real damage to your kidneys, though, so it's not something many people need to worry about.
John started his sporting life as a swimmer but soon found his love for triathlon and Ironman racing. He tells us what he eats in a day to fuel his intense training.
What I have for breakfast depends on what time of day I am waking up. If I'm in the pool for 6am then I'm often not particularly hungry and a banana and/or a cereal bar does the job to start the day.
If I'm coaching for 7am then I will have a bowl of granola or porridge – something a bit more nutrient- and calorie-dense that can fill me up until lunchtime. If I don't have morning clients then a real treat for me is to make scrambled eggs and maybe some smoked salmon.
The snacks that I eat throughout the day could be anything from biscuits to cereal bars to recovery shakes or bars post-training.
This tends to be bagels, sandwiches, or leftover dinner. I like to have something simple and easy and hopefully, something that I can carry around or pick up on the fly.
This depends on how busy I am. On busy weeks, I might batch-cook a big chilli con carne, chicken casserole, or baked salmon – something that I can box up and heat up for lunches or dinner.
If I have a little more time then I enjoy taking that time to cook something a little nicer. My favourites are risotto or curry (my grandparents are Indian); my view is that food is a social thing just as much as fuel!
As an endurance athlete, my diet is mixed, balanced, but overall fairly high in energy. Personally, I never really worry too much about my intake because I enjoy my fruit and vegetables and they tend to bulk out any meal.