Episode 77 - The Secret To Unlocking Your Supercharged Zone As A Triathlete

The Secret To Unlocking Your Supercharged Zone As A Triathlete

If you want to get the most out of your training, you need to learn how to unlock your SUPERCHARGED ZONE. It’s the sweet spot where training and nutrition intersect. And is the secret to becoming a better triathlete. 

My job, as an Advanced Sports Dietitian is to fast track your success when it comes to triathlon nutrition. Working with triathletes for many years in private practice and through my role at Triathlon Australia, I noticed there were some key elements triathletes needed to dial in first as a priority, to feel supercharged. Introducing … my SUPERCHARGED Triathlete Formula…

The SUPERCHARGED Triathlete Formula

  1. Recovery Nutrition
  2. Pre-Training Nutrition
  3. Periodisation
  4. Run Fuel
  5. Ride Fuel
  6. Carb-Loading
  7. Hydration
  8. Supplements – the right ones that will benefit you, not burn a hole in your pocket


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Episode Transcription

Episode 77 - The Secret To Unlocking Your Supercharged Zone As A Triathlete

Taryn Richardson  00:00

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

The secret to unlocking your Supercharged Zone as a triathlete? Oh, how good is that title? So what on earth am I talking about when I'm talking about the Supercharged Zone? For me, this is where training and nutrition intersect. It's that sweet spot where we've got our training working, and we've got our nutrition working that go hand in hand. So think about nutrition being a big circle, and training being a big circle. And when we move those two circles close together, like a Venn diagram, that little sweet spot where they overlap there, that's what I call the Supercharged Zone - where training and nutrition are working perfectly and harmoniously. And working for you, not against you.

Taryn Richardson  01:29

Because what I see so many triathletes absolutely smash themselves at training, and have no regard for how they're fuelling and recovering from those sessions. We know how to train hard, and we always turn up to training, yet, why don't we put so much emphasis on our nutrition, which is going to help that because we only adapt, so get fitter and faster from the sessions that we recover from. Do I need to say that again? We only adapt from the sessions we recover from. So if you suck at your recovery nutrition, then you're not actually getting the full suite of adaptations that occur by doing that training session in the first place. So you're wasting your time and your effort and your energy levels, and not maximising your performance.

Taryn Richardson  02:22

So some key indicators that you haven't unlocked your Supercharged Zone just yet might be that you really struggle to get off the couch, after long weekend training sessions. Hands up, if that's you!  You go and do a long ride and that's it, you're done. You spend the whole afternoon watching Netflix, reading a book, running the risk of getting divorced, because you're rendered useless. That is a key example, that your nutrition is not working for you - it is working against you.

Taryn Richardson  02:52

Another indicator might be if you crave sweet in the afternoons - you know you hit, sort of, three o'clock or 3.30-itis I like to call it and you're either hunting down the cookie jar, you're going for a walk to the shops to get something sweet and, if you have the luxury of time, maybe this is where you have a nap. I'm very jealous. There's days where I feel like I need a nap. But hey, I'm severely sleep deprived.

Taryn Richardson  03:18

Another indicator that your nutrition is not right, is if you fade in the back end of those longer sessions as well. So do you bonk or hit the wall? Where you've got literally nothing left and you're peeling your butt off the pavement to get yourself home? Or pulling into the service station and getting a coke or borrowing some gels or some lollies or something off a training buddy to get your arse home? If that's you, then you've run out of fuel and your nutrition hasn't been right in the lead up and during that session to feel Supercharged.

Taryn Richardson  03:52

Do you get really anxious when it comes to long bunch rides - that you don't spend your time doing some work up the front because you're worried that you won't survive? And do you stress about getting dropped and being left behind? I've been there too. But imagine how it would feel if you weren't stressed about getting dropped. And you were confident enough to take your turn on the front and pull some people along for a while instead of getting a free ride the whole time yourself.

Taryn Richardson  04:18

Another indicator might be that at the end of your week - so typically for people it's a Friday, but if you're a shift worker, your Friday might be a Tuesday or something like that - you're absolutely exhausted. You have no idea how you're going to get through the next few days of training and you've just accumulated all of the extra stress and fatigue from a training week that wasn't supported properly with nutrition.

Taryn Richardson  04:43

And finally another good red flag is that if you just feeling absolutely wrecked and tired all the time. Like yes, you are going to be tired and fatigued from training that's, you know, what happens when you are a high achieving triathlete and want to fit three sports into your week. But tired and fatigue that's not normal, you know, you don't have highs and lows, it's just all lows. If any of that resonates with you, then chances are your nutrition is not right. And it's a simple fix, you just need to know what you're doing.

Taryn Richardson  05:15

So a couple of key pillars to your success here, if you want to unlock your Supercharged Zone. Number one - you need to train - like, yes, you need to be able to swim, bike, run, and then piece all of those three things together. I'm not going to tell you how to train, that's not my area of expertise - we have some other good guests on the podcast who can help you with that, or you've probably got a coach or a squad or some sort of program.

Taryn Richardson  05:38

You need to train, yes. You can't do a triathlon by driving the couch. And the second thing you need to do is you need to eat to support that training. In essence, it's really simple - and it is - you just need to know how to do that. And if you get those things right - that sweet spot where training and nutrition intersect, you will feel Supercharged, I promise you. And you'll feel so much more energised, and be successful in whichever way you want to be successful. Success looks different for everyone, it might be to win the race. And that's fine. It might be to get to the finishing line in one piece. And that's fine. It might mean hitting the top 10. Or it might mean beating your personal best time. Success comes in all different shapes and sizes. But I want you to feel that for you.

Taryn Richardson  06:31

So it sounds simple, right? Train, eat, sleep, repeat. But that can be quite challenging as an age group athlete. You also have to probably work, potentially parent and fit in all of your 'life laundry' in and around three different sports as well as home logistics, cooking, cleaning, shopping, all that boring, adulting stuff. You're not a pro triathlete, you still probably need to do all those things that come with being an age group triathlete, too. So my job is to fast track your success through all of the key elements that you need to dial in properly, to feel Supercharged.

Taryn Richardson  07:09

And because I've been working with triathletes, for more than 13 years now, I put together a bit of a Supercharged Triathlete formula. It's something that I have been cooking up for many years. And it's what I think is some of the key principles that you need to get right if you want to get your nutrition sorted for triathlon and the things you need to tackle first. So before you go and spend all your money on pills and potions - you'll be heavily marketed to - all of the weird stuff at this time of year -  take a step back for a second and think about some of the foundations. Because January's a very high time where we're thinking about our health. We're thinking about our nutrition, we're thinking about training, and how we want to set our year up for success. So I want you to come back to this time point in 12 months time, so next January 2024 - gosh, it's hard to think like that - and I want you to be confident that you've given each of these elements a red hot go, and you have a plan for every single one.

Taryn Richardson  08:11

So let me run you through them. There are eight key things that you need to do if you want to unlock the secret success to being a good triathlete. Not winning necessarily, but just being a good triathlete. The first one is recovering nutrition. This is the first element that we tackle inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, because it is one of the most important things you need to do. Most triathletes have no idea how to do this properly, which boggles my mind because it's not complicated. You just need to understand what are the key things that you need to do and when - because remember, I said right in the beginning, we only adapt from the sessions we recover from. So you need to prioritise the perfectly formulated recovery meal for you.

Taryn Richardson  09:03

So we need to tick off those four boxes, refuelling with carbohydrate, repairing with protein, revitalising with some colour, and rehydrating with water - it's totally fine - water is the best fluid for rehydration without needing to do anything else. Now how much you have of each of those things is really individual. So I'm going to teach you how to do that inside the Academy.

Taryn Richardson  09:28

The second thing you need to have a plan for is your pre training nutrition. I'm a big believer in "you shouldn't do the same shit all the time". You need to have a strategic approach to what you do before training sessions. Now I have spoken to elite level athletes who don't have this right but I want you to get it right because it makes a huge difference what you do around your training sessions. That's where I think you have the best bang for your buck - is what you do before, during and after training, as the first priority. Which is, again, why we cover pre training nutrition in week two of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, so we're getting the before and after stuff dialled in quickly.

Taryn Richardson  10:12

You want to be strategic around what you're doing, but understand how much and what types of foods work here, and then practicing that for you too. Because not everyone is the same. Some people can go and smash a whole bowl of porridge, and two slices of toast and a glass of milk and then go and run hard five minutes later. Others can't even look at a glass of water without feeling sick. But at the end of the day, it's about having a plan, trying something and then refining it. So we're not doing the same shit all the time.

Taryn Richardson  10:44

The third element of the supercharged triathlete formula is periodisation. Now again, that means not doing the same shit all the time. It means eating strategically to best support training. So you want to eat differently on different types of training days. Because as a triathlete, who trains for three disciplines, there is no one training day that will be the same in a week, typically. You'll have longer training session days where you're building that aerobic engine. You will have shorter high performance, high intensity type training sessions in a week as well. And then you might have some light, easy active, recovery type sessions that are quite aerobic but short. The idea is that we're giving the body a bit of a rest there. So it would make sense if your training adaptations are different, that your nutrition adaptations would be different. And we want to do something to help support those.

Taryn Richardson  11:37

We want to make sure our overall energy intake, better matches training so we're not putting ourselves into the red of low energy availability. And also on the flip side, not overdoing it so that we are, despite training the house down, gaining weight, which is very common for triathletes. And that's because you don't know how to do periodisation.

Taryn Richardson  11:59

The fourth key element of the Supercharged Triathlete formula is run fuel. Of course, you need to understand how to fuel yourself when you're running. Eating on your feet is a completely different kettle of fish compared to what you do on the bike where your stomach is still unstable and you have much more tolerance for nutrition, and you can carry it all around you as well. Whereas eating on your feet has its own challenges. We need to think about much more easy to digest options that we have to carry on us typically. You've got the aid stations in a race but if we're talking about practicing everything in training, you're going to need to figure out how to do that and that typically means carrying things on you.

Taryn Richardson  12:42

Stashing them in trees and doing laps or setting yourself up an aid station out of the boot of your car. And how much you have depends on a number of factors - the intensity, the duration, your goals, what you're trying to achieve here. All of that impacts my decision making for you for how to do your run fuelling. But it's understanding some targets and some guidelines. And then I'll teach you what sort of products are good, what sort of products to avoid, and how to go about actually training your gut to absorb the fuel that you're putting in. Because you can put a whole heap of stuff inside your tummy. Whether it does anything or not is another question.

Taryn Richardson  13:25

The fifth strategy is ride fuel. So again, you need to have a plan for what you're doing on the bike. And just like running, the plan will change and evolve depending on what you're doing and what your goals are. So what's the duration? What's the intensity? What are we trying to achieve? Are we building towards race nutrition or not? Are we trying to drop some body fat or not? There is no one size fits all with nutrition. So there's a lot of pieces of the puzzle that I want to know about before I give you some guidance around what to do specifically and when.

Taryn Richardson  13:58

And just like running, you need to be able to deal with the carbohydrate or the fuel that you throw into your stomach. You probably will have a much better tolerance for fuelling on the bike but a good test of that is to then run off the bike and see how you guts go with whatever strategy you implemented on the bike.

Taryn Richardson  14:18

The sixth key element of the Supercharged Triathlete formula is carbohydrate loading. Something I'm very passionate about teaching triathletes how to do properly because you can get a 1 - 3% performance gain by carb loading properly. Now, carbohydrate loading does not mean eating a bowl of pasta at the pasta party the night before your race! That in no way comes close to what you need to effectively carbohydrate load. So what we're trying to achieve here is to fill up our fuel tank as much as possible so that we can go as far as possible without running out of fuel.

Taryn Richardson  14:59

It is not the easiest thing to do in the world, I'm not going to lie. It does need to be developed with your targets in mind, and then practiced in training so that it's not a new thing that you're doing the day before your race, waking up feeling bloated, tired, lethargic, heavy, and thinking, "Oh, this didn't work for me". I promise you, it'll work. And you will feel supercharged when you get it right. But you will need to be strategic around how we're doing it, because there is definitely easier ways to carbohydrate load and hard ways to carbohydrate load. And I've done both just for shits and giggles - to see what it's like to experience both ends of the spectrum for your gains.

Taryn Richardson  15:41

The seventh principle that you need to get right, if you want to feel Supercharged, is hydration. Everyone sweats really differently. So I can't give you a number that I've pulled out of my head to tell you how much to drink. You need to understand what sort of sweater you are, and then how to stay on top of your hydration because we know that dehydration negatively affects performance. We know less about sodium replacement during exercise. And it's something we don't tackle until Phase Three of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, for that reason.

Taryn Richardson  16:17

It's not something that you want to muck around with unless you've got some good, accurate data. Now, there's some bogus sweat tests going around. I'm not going to mention any names, but just be mindful around where you're getting that data and how then you're applying it  - because that's where the magic happens is - you've got some data, what do you then do with that? What does it mean for you? And how do you map out your own hydration plan depending on the type of event that you're doing?

Taryn Richardson  16:47

And the final element of the Supercharged Triathlete formula is supplements. If you're a long time listener, you'll know that these are the sprinkles on the icing on the cake. But you want to understand the types of supplements or one percenters or sprinkles that will benefit you and not burn a hole in your pocket. Because there are so many things you can take. And there's so much crap you can read about online. And you might have seen an increase in marketing of these things during this month, as they're trying to help you be healthier. When you're maybe seeking out this information more, they're throwing this stuff in your face, they're making sure it's front and centre - it's right at the end of your nose.

Taryn Richardson  17:28

So just be mindful of what you put in your bodies because your body is a temple. And we want to make sure that if we're taking something we know that 1. It's safe 2. It's effective and 3. It's actually going to do something. The more stuff we take, the more it seems that they wash each other out. So again, we want to be a little bit strategic around the types of things that we're taking and when, rather than just blanketly taking everything and hoping for the best.

Taryn Richardson  17:55

It's like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing if something sticks. Now I'm not going to dive into supplements in this episode. It is something that I've reserved for the Academy athletes, so I get to know them a bit better and direct you once I know that you've done the work on your fundamentals first. We build up our nutritional pyramid or our cake in the right direction - rather than flipping it to the tip first and working on those one percenters first, we're flipping our pyramid up the other direction. So it has a nice solid base of these Supercharged Triathlete formula elements first. That means that when we start to do some sprinkles at the end of the program, we know that they're going to stick and you also know whether you feel different doing it or not, because a lot of people take stuff, but then don't really know if it has benefited them in a good or a bad way.

Taryn Richardson  18:49

So this time of year might be a great time to reassess everything that you're taking. That might be one of your New Year's resolutions - is to just open up your supplement bag or cupboard and see what's in there. And just making sure that if you're taking something, you know why, and you know how much you need to get the desired effect and when. There are some very well researched sports supplements that can enhance performance. And we've got some pretty good protocols for a lot of things now as well. So maybe clear the slate and think of it strategically around your supplement use going forwards.

Taryn Richardson  19:30

Now these eight key elements are the secret to unlocking your Supercharged Zone as a triathlete. A lot of them aren't sexy. A lot of them aren't passive - hand your money over and take a pill and hope for the best. A lot of them are going to take a little bit of work on your behalf. But it's not difficult. You just need someone to show you how to do it. And we dive into each and every one of these in detail inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program. I'm going to teach you why it's important, and then specifically how to do each of them for you.

Taryn Richardson  20:05

And then every week you get to pick my brain live in Power Hour, and make sure you have your very own custom plan that's perfect for you. You also get to learn from others and the questions that they ask, and the types of things that they're using and implementing too. So you get to learn from me and my experience, as well as from other triathletes who are in the exact same boat as you are at the moment. So if you're feeling like this is your year, and you want to get help with your nutrition, head to dietitianapproved.com/academy. And there you have it, my secrets to unlocking your Supercharged Zone as a triathlete.

Taryn Richardson  20:47

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 www.dietitianapproved.com/academy. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to helping you smashed in the fourth leg - nutrition! 


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