Episode 108 - Recipe Guidelines for Triathletes: Food to Fuel Training

Recipe Guidelines for Triathletes: Food to Fuel Training

When we’re looking for recipes to eat well and perform at our best as a triathlete, there are a few key components we need to ensure are included. 

The challenge is, often recipes online and in cookbooks are unbalanced and don’t tick all the right boxes for the active person. And it’s hard to see that with an untrained eye. 

They can also be complicated with too many steps, take too long to make, contain weird ingredients and end up not tasting any good. They’re a complete waste of time, money and sad for our palette. 

Triathlon recipes need to provide the right balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fats) to fuel your training and recovery and meet your nutrient needs as well.

So how do you source recipes that tick all the right boxes for you? Tune in to find out!

To get instant access to over 150 Sports Dietitian developed recipes to fuel the active body, head to dietitianapproved.com/recipedatabase

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Episode Transcription

Episode 108: Recipe Guidelines for Triathletes: Food to Fuel Training

Taryn Richardson 0:00

Welcome to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. The show designed to serve you up evidence-based sports nutrition advice from the experts. Hi, I'm your host Taryn, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Advanced Sports Dietitian and founder of Dietitian Approved. Listen as I break down the latest evidence to give you practical, easy-to-digest strategies to train hard, recover faster and perform at your best. You have so much potential, and I want to help you unlock that with the power of nutrition. Let's get into it.

Taryn Richardson  00:43

I'm really passionate about teaching triathletes how to eat to fuel for performance but also really importantly, their long term health. And working in private practice for more than 15 years now with endurance athletes, one of the most common things that I found that they wanted was exact recipes to follow that were healthy, of course nutritious and definitely delicious. And from a logistical and practical standpoint, for me, it also needs to be really quick and easy. Because there's no point cooking complicated recipes with millions of steps and weird exotic ingredients that you can't source easily, takes you three hours to cook and it ends up tasting disgusting anyway. That is like my ultimate worst nightmare. 

Taryn Richardson  01:33

And I know how hard it can be to try and Google for recipes. I've done it. I look for things all the time. And one of the things that happens when I cook recipes from something like Google or a recipe database that's not my own is they're gross and they're definitely not balanced. It is very rare, in fact, I don't even really do it anymore at all but follow a recipe and not tweak it in some way. I will always inject more nutrients into a recipe and make sure it's balanced perfectly for me and my family's needs. Because I don't want you either wasting all that time and wasting that money on cooking and finding recipes and eating food that one, isn't nutritious and two, isn't delicious. I also want to make sure that you are fuelling your body with the right target specifically for you as well. The ultimate goal is to optimise our training performance and we can do that with the type of fuel that we put in our engine.

Taryn Richardson  02:37

So many, many years ago, I set about creating my own Recipe Database to help fuel more of an active person. You can go and check it out at dietitianapproved.com/recipedatabase. At the moment, it contains over 100 recipes dietitian developed, #dietitianapproved that are specific for the active person. When I'm looking for recipes or building recipes that are suitable for triathletes, it's really important to focus on meals that provide that beautiful balance of our macronutrients, so carbohydrate, protein and fat to make sure that we're fuelling our training and recovering, but we also need to meet our nutrient needs as an active person as well. And we always get caught up in the macros and we forget that we have much higher needs for all of our micronutrients compared to somebody that's way more sedentary.

Taryn Richardson  03:34

So when it comes to recipes for triathletes, we need to make sure that they do contain carbohydrate. Triathletes obviously need carbohydrate to fuel all of your endurance activities. So you want to be looking for more complex carbohydrate sources, though, so whole grain breads and cereals, things like fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, particularly the starchy variety, and things like legumes to provide your carbohydrate that's going to give you much more sustained energy and help top up your muscle glycogen stores after training plus also give you a wide range of nutrients that you need. But your carbohydrate needs are highly individual. And so you need to understand what these are on different types of training days and for what meals rather than just sticking with a set target day in day out, week in week out, season in season out.

Taryn Richardson  04:31

I love to teach my athletes inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy how to periodise their food based on training demand. And there are some simple strategies to help you manipulate your nutrition so that you're eating what you need, not what you can. So I like to build my recipes in a way that the carbohydrate can be adjusted and adapted based on specifically what you need at that time. The other thing that's really important when it comes to recipes for triathletes is making sure it hits the right protein targets. We know that protein is really important for recovery and repair and we are always recovering and repairing when we're training for three sports in a week. We can never take our foot off the gas when it comes to protein.

Taryn Richardson  05:20

So you want to look for recipes and stick to recipes that have enough protein and making sure they are good quality sources of protein as well. So whether that's lean sources of meats or poultry, fish, things like tofu, and tempeh, legumes again, and nuts and seeds, and using things like high protein yoghurt appropriately as well. We want to make sure we have a huge variety of our protein sources to help you meet all of your amino acid requirements and make sure you are getting enough. The number of recipes that I've seen online that do not contain enough protein is mind boggling, particularly ones that are marketed to or marketed for the active person. And that's not something that you have any understanding of until you know what you're looking for in that space. If you're a plant based athlete, then it's also really important that you meet your protein needs. And it's even more important that you get a wide variety of protein sources so that you get that full complement of amino acids that are essential that we can't produce in our body.

Taryn Richardson  06:28

And the third macronutrient that you need to make sure your triathlon recipes contain is lots of healthy fats. Now healthy fats are so important for us when we are an endurance athlete and we have a high stress load due to exercise. We need them for our overall health but also performance because they have beautiful anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties that we need to harness the power of if we want to backup and adapt and recover as quickly as possible from training. So you want your recipes that you're following to have things like avocado, nuts, and seeds, olive oil. They can all be really beneficial for us to get everything that we need and the right types of fats. Omega 3 is also really important, so including lots of fatty fish into your diet is a great way to make sure you're getting your omega 3's. That's going to help with that inflammation process. And if you are not a fish eater because you're allergic, then you need to talk to a sports dietitian around how to get your omega 3's in if you're not consuming any fish.

Taryn Richardson  07:34

What I find with triathletes though, is that they don't eat enough fat from the right sources. So we tend to get enough fat in our diet but it's not the beautiful mono and polyunsaturated fats. Our fat tends to come from saturated sources and that's because we can get away with a little bit eating more junk food because we have a higher energy demand. So things like cookies and ice cream and chocolate and crackers and biscuits that are high in saturated fats, pizza, donuts, pastry, do I need to go on? So what I like to do with my recipes is make sure that they are injected with these healthy fats because I know that you need more of them in your life, so that we can minimise the amount of not so great fats in our diet. And hopefully, by doing that, it also fills us up too because if you don't have any fat in your diet, you don't have that beautiful satiating effect that you can get from fats in a meal. 

Taryn Richardson  08:36

And we've come full circle in a way from really low fat thinking back in the 80s and now we're in a bit of a low carb mindset. And I know of some athletes that have combined those two things. And so what on earth are they eating if they're eating a low fat, low carb diet? God knows what. So we need to be okay with fat. We just need to know how much and the types to include in our diet and making sure your recipes do contain healthy fats, they're not completely devoid of them because we do need them. And the other component that you need to make sure your recipes and what you're eating contain lots and lots of vitamins and minerals. We need a huge variety all the time for our overall health but also performance in our sport. So you want to look for recipes that are beautiful and colourful. The more different variety of things that you have in one meal, the better. So often I see triathlete meal plans and triathlete recipes or active people recipes, and then it's just like chicken, broccoli and rice and I just want to gag. 

Taryn Richardson  09:45

We have to think more broadly around the way that we eat so that we are getting a huge range of nutrients and minerals. Now you might be thinking, it's all good, I'd take a multivitamin so I don't need all that variety. If you haven't listened to it yet, go back and listen to Episode 83 of the podcast - Do you need to take a multivitamin? before you fob me off as not needing this part in your meals. When it comes to your recipes, you also need to consider the timing for training. It really matters when you eat your nutrients based on training demands so that we can adapt from our training sessions to the maximum of our ability with the timeframe that we've got. So are you eating three meals a day and that's it? And that might be the way that you like to eat and that's totally fine. You don't need to snack, although most triathletes love a snack.

Taryn Richardson  10:44

But is the timing of those recipes based on your training load? And that's really important. So you want to consider what your pre training is, and what your post training nutrition is, and dial that in for you and your targets. And when you know your targets, it makes it so much easier to source recipes that meets your needs, that tick all of your boxes for recovery, that provide exactly what you need pre training because she know what targets you're aiming for. Before training, we want to focus on those much more easier to digest carbohydrate sources. And then after training, we want to make sure that we're ticking off the 4 R's of recovery that is perfect for you. So protein for repair, carbohydrate to replenish our muscle glycogen stores, we always need to rehydrate, and we need to make sure we revitalise. And that is all our beautiful colours and we need to not forget about those, particularly in that recovery window, but all the time.

Taryn Richardson  11:48

We want our recipes and what we're following to be really diverse and nutrient rich. We want to incorporate a huge range of variety, so that we have a well rounded, well balanced diet. We're not just sticking with the same things all the time. We're not just grabbing seven apples and seven bananas for the week and being like, yep, I've got my fruit in, tick. We also want to get out of the rut of sticking with the same vegetables all the time. The world is so much less seasonal than it used to be. And you seem to be able to access all things at all times but doesn't mean that you should do that. We do want to eat seasonally because food grown in season is going to have more nutrients than food that's forced to grow out of its seasonality.

Taryn Richardson  12:35

We also need to think more broadly about getting our nutrients from all of the food groups, not cutting out some and limiting some, unless you've got a proper food allergy and tolerance issue going on. And then you need to be more crafty around how you're getting those nutrients from the things that you're missing out on or can't consume. Carbs aren't bad but you need to lean into those more whole grain breads and cereals. Choose lean protein sources rather than the fatty varieties and always eat the rainbow.

Taryn Richardson  13:07

But remember, individualisation is key. Everyone's nutrient needs are slightly different - male versus female, young versus wise, complete beginners in the sport versus seasoned athletes. Everyone's nutrient needs and nutritional needs are different. So I want you choosing recipes that can be easily customisable based on your individual preferences, your dietary requirements, and also training load and intensity. That's really important when you're training for three sports. 

Taryn Richardson  13:41

So those are my tips for when you're looking for recipes or trying to eat to support triathlon. They are all the boxes that you need to tick and need to think about. Now the challenge is, that doesn't exist online. You can't go and look at a recipe and go yep, there's a nutritional breakdown for me which most of them don't have, anyway. And unless you're a sports dietitian, know how to look at something and go yep, that's about the right amount of protein per serve or I know roughly what carbohydrate that's going to come out to based on the number of serves. That is a mad skill that I've trained over a long period of time to look at a recipe and go that's balanced or that is far from that.

Taryn Richardson  14:23

Which is why I created my own Recipe Database in the first place. I was so problematic trying to help athletes eat better, direct them on where to go. I just made it up myself. So if you're looking for help in the cooking and recipe department, check out the Dietitian Approved Recipe Database. There are over 150 sports dietitian developed recipes in there that are all #dietitianapproved. And every recipe in there includes the complete nutritional breakdown, so you know exactly what you're getting per serve. And because I'm a total food nerd, I've taken that one one step further and also given you the number of fruit and vegetable serves it contains, so that you're making sure you're ticking off this really key component to eating as an endurance athlete. So dietitianapproved.com/recipedatabase if you want to go and check it out. I'll link it in the show notes as well.

Taryn Richardson  15:19

But it's like a cookbook that never ends. I'm constantly adding to it, I'm constantly updating it. This month, I'm doing another big push and adding lots of new recipes in to get us through the back end of 2023. So things like homemade pizza dough, which is honestly taken about three years to perfect this recipe which is why it hasn't existed till now. It's going to be things like, chicken and cashew stir fry, and a tropical smoothie, and so many more. I've also spent the last 9 to 12 months filming the recipes and it is a huge project. But I'm looking forward to getting some of those video edits back soon and I'll be uploading those into the database as well. It is a work in progress. Honestly, it takes at least two hours to do each recipe. And with over 150 in there already, that's more than 300 hours which honestly is a struggle for me to find, but we're getting there. Not to mention the recipes that I did film with a videographer who went completely MIA and now I have to redo those again. But let's not talk about that because that makes me super angry.

Taryn Richardson  16:29

So remember, when it comes to finding recipes, sourcing recipes, following recipes as a triathlete, you want to make sure that it's hitting the right targets to fuel the active body. It is so different to the general population who are not as active as us and don't juggle as many balls as us. As a triathlete, you can't eat like somebody that goes to the gym. And you can't eat the same way all the time either. You can't just stick with a meal planning service that delivers meals for you and hope for the best. None of that stuff works when you're trying to fit three sports into a week, trying to train once, twice, maybe three times a day, have different types of training days, like a lighter day, a moderate day, and a hard day. Any of those sorts of food delivery services are based on general population data. Or there's some very gym specific ones too, that have more protein in them, but less carbohydrate and typically one type of vegetable.

Taryn Richardson  17:36

You can't eat like a bird as a triathlete. Even if you're trying to drop some body fat, you won't get good outcomes if you are restricting yourself so far into the hole. You run the risk of low energy availability, and that is not somewhere that you want to be. Remember, we need that balance of macros - carbs, proteins, healthy fats, but also a massive injection of all of our micronutrients. And we need to not forget about these because we tend to. But don't stress if all of that is confusing and overwhelming and you don't have time. I've got you covered with the Dietitian Approved Recipe Database if you want all that hard work done for you. Head to dietitianapproved.com/recipedatabase to go and check it out now.

Taryn Richardson 18:26

Thanks for joining me for this episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or want to share with me what you've learned, email me at [email protected]. You can also spread the word by leaving me a review and taking a screenshot of you listening to the show. Don't forget to tag me on social media, @dietitian.approved, so I can give you a shout out, too. If you want to learn more about what we do, head to dietitianapproved.com. And if you want to learn more about the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, head to dietitianapproved.com/academy. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to helping you smashed in the fourth leg - nutrition! 

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