Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FUEL NUTRITION - BY PIP TAY­LOR

It’s no se­cret that one of the hard­est things to achieve in get­ting to the start line of an fulld­is­tance race (or any triathlon, re­ally) is stay­ing both fit and healthy. It’s also no se­cret that, in or­der to com­plete such a gru­elling event, you need to put in the “hard yards.” This might mean sacri­fic­ing some sleep, push­ing your­self when you re­ally don’t feel like it and of­ten stretch­ing your­self thin be­tween train­ing and other life com­mit­ments, such as fam­ily and work. All of this takes a toll and, while phys­i­cal ex­er­cise in gen­eral boosts health mark­ers and im­mune sta­tus, it is easy to teeter over the edge and com­pro­mise im­mune func­tion.

Here’s what you need to know about ex­er­cise and im­mune func­tion so that you can op­ti­mize your health go­ing into a race and min­i­mize your chances of com­ing down with a dreaded cold dur­ing race week.

After a par­tic­u­larly hard ses­sion or race, or in high mileage weeks (aka full-dis­tance train­ing), cir­cu­lat­ing hor­mones such as cor­ti­sol and adren­a­line sup­press white blood cell func­tion. This leaves the im­mune sys­tem weak­ened, in­creas­ing the risk that viruses and bac­te­ria can gain a foothold – es­pe­cially up­per res­pi­ra­tory tract in­fec­tions, such as colds, si­nusi­tis and ton­sil­li­tis. When you throw in other de­mands, such as stress from work or fam­ily, lack of sleep and time for re­cov­ery, and the load on the body and im­mune sys­tem ac­cu­mu­lates. If you are some­one who reg­u­larly trav­els for work, trav­els for races, or is fre­quently ex­posed to large crowds and con­tact with other peo­ple, then that risk of in­fec­tion soars even higher.

What can you do?

• Good nutri­tion is key to sup­port­ing im­mune func­tion. Most of the body’s im­mune de­fences are lo­cated in the gut, so it makes sense that what we put in there plays a ma­jor role.

• Some spe­cific nu­tri­ents such as iron, zinc and vi­ta­mins A, D, E, B6 and B12, have been shown to be par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant in main­tain­ing im­mune sta­tus. From a prac­ti­cal food-on-your-plate per­spec­tive, this means pay­ing at­ten­tion to qual­ity sources of pro­tein, as well as plenty of colour and va­ri­ety from var­i­ous fruits and veg­eta­bles.

• If it is win­ter­time, and you aren’t get­ting much sun­shine, then you may also want to look at vi­ta­min D sup­ple­men­ta­tion. Dur­ing sum­mer, this shouldn’t be an is­sue for triath­letes train­ing in the sun­shine, since most of the vi­ta­min D we need we ab­sorb di­rectly from sun­light.

• Pro­bi­otic foods have also been shown to be ben­e­fi­cial in main­tain­ing health. Look for fer­mented foods with live pro­bi­otics, such as yo­gurts, kom­bucha, sauerkraut, ke­fir and pick­led veg­eta­bles.

• Con­sume ad­e­quate carbs dur­ing longer/harder ses­sions to help mit­i­gate over­train­ing symp­toms, which place greater stress on the body and tend to fur­ther de­press white blood cell func­tion.

• Sleep, stress and re­cov­ery. Sleep is the best re­cov­ery tool for any ath­lete. Ad­e­quate rest is crit­i­cal for restor­ing hor­monal and im­mune func­tion. Plus,

if you do find your­self com­ing down with a cold, then a cou­ple of days of good re­cov­ery – in­clud­ing sleep and good nutri­tion, should help you bounce back rel­a­tively quickly.

• Ba­sic hy­giene: Prac­tice good hand wash­ing and food hy­giene. Avoid shar­ing per­sonal items, such as drink bot­tles and tow­els. Avoid close con­tact with oth­ers who are, or have been, sick. If pos­si­ble limit ex­po­sure to large crowds, es­pe­cially in the two hours after a hard ses­sion.

Foods to boost im­mune func­tion for triath­letes in hard train­ing

Pack your plate with these nu­tri­tional pow­er­houses to help keep your race prepa­ra­tion on track and ward off ill­ness and in­fec­tion.

• Yo­gurt and ke­fir are good for gut health and of­fer im­mune-boost­ing pro­bi­otics.

• Gar­lic con­tains the ac­tive in­gre­di­ent al­licin, which fights in­fec­tion and bac­te­ria.

• Oats and bar­ley con­tain beta-glu­can, a type of fi­bre, which has been shown to have par­tic­u­lar an­timi­cro­bial and an­tiox­i­dant ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

• Brazil nuts are rich in se­le­nium, im­por­tant in boost­ing white blood cell func­tion.

• Tea pro­vides a punch of an­tiox­i­dants and polyphe­nols, while adding to fluid in­take – hy­dra­tion is an­other key to stay­ing healthy and fight­ing in­fec­tion.

• Beef, lamb and egg yolks are all great sources of zinc, which is crit­i­cal for the devel­op­ment of white blood cells that rec­og­nize and de­stroy in­vad­ing bac­te­ria and viruses.

• Sweet pota­toes, car­rots and pump­kin pro­vide vi­ta­min A for cell struc­ture and strength.

• Re­search shows mush­rooms may in­crease the pro­duc­tion and ef­fec­tive­ness of white blood cells.

• Salmon, sar­dines and other fatty fish are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids, es­sen­tial for re­duc­ing in­flam­ma­tion and also help to pro­tect from colds and res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions.

BLUE­BER­RIES ARE FULL of fi­bre and an­tiox­i­dants such as vi­ta­min C and, lucky us, they’re in sea­son. Pair with juicy lemon and sweet lo­cal honey and you’ve got a fresh and bright com­bi­na­tion that will wake you up and keep you happy. These power pan­cakes are the ul­ti­mate break­fast be­fore a day of train­ing. They’re full of pro­tein, fi­bre, healthy fats and, of course, the star of the show: blue­ber­ries. Make a batch for the whole fam­ily to en­joy.


Calo­ries Fat Choles­terol Sodium Potas­sium Fi­bre Sugar Pro­tein




2 eggs

1 cup plain Greek yo­gurt ¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp lemon zest

3 tbsp co­conut oil, melted and cooled

2 tbsp honey ¼ cup milk

(any milk will do)

1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour 1 tsp bak­ing pow­der Pinch sea salt ½ cup fresh blue­ber­ries



1. Mix to­gether flour, bak­ing pow­der and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

2. In an­other bowl, whisk to­gether eggs, yo­gurt, lemon juice, lemon zest, co­conut oil, honey and milk. Add to dry in­gre­di­ents all at once. Stir un­til al­most com­bined. Fold in blue­ber­ries un­til ev­ery­thing is mixed to­gether.


4. Let cook un­til pan­cakes start to bub­ble and edges are no longer shiny. Flip. Cook an­other one to two min­utes.

5. Top with fruit and yo­gurt or real maple syrup and en­joy your all-day en­ergy.


The big dif­fer­ence be­tween pro ath­letes and age-group com­peti­tors is that the pros lit­er­ally make their liv­ing from the sport. With that in mind, they can’t af­ford to leave any­thing to chance. At­ten­tion to de­tail is crit­i­cal when it comes to set­ting up your tran­si­tion area so that you can lit­er­ally change from one sport to the next in a mat­ter of sec­onds. For the pros com­pet­ing at the WTS level, a sec­ond or two lost in tran­si­tion could mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween mak­ing a pack or not, which could ul­ti­mately de­ter­mine their fi­nal po­si­tion in the race. There aren’t too many triath­letes who wouldn’t like to chop a few sec­onds off their time with a bet­ter tran­si­tion. And if you’re out a bit quicker, even in a non-draft­ing race, you might find your­self com­pet­ing with a slightly faster group of ath­letes, which will help you go faster, too.

So take some time to watch the pros set up their tran­si­tion be­fore they head down to the wa­ter to warm up. Watch­ing the warm-up process can be very en­light­en­ing, too. Since the start and the swim are so crit­i­cal in draft-le­gal rac­ing, it’s amaz­ing to watch how much time the pros spend warm­ing up be­fore their start. They’ll also do lots of dives and short sprints to en­sure they’re ready to go as soon as the gun goes off. While most age-group ath­letes won’t take part in a dive start, many would ben­e­fit from a more ex­ten­sive warm-up. Watch­ing how the pros do it can pro­vide some help­ful tips.


Even if there are some awe­some mas­ters swim­mers in your group, they’re prob­a­bly not as fast as the top swim­mers you’ll see in Mon­treal. How of­ten do you get to see an ex­cel­lent stroke? How of­ten do you get to see an ex­cel­lent stroke in open wa­ter? The same goes for the bike, where you’ll have the op­por­tu­nity to watch the ath­letes go by nu­mer­ous times on the multi-lap course. How fast do they pedal? How do they po­si­tion them­selves in the pack?

Once out on the run course you’ll be amazed at just how fast the pros move, look­ing more like track run­ners than triath­letes as they come off the bike and take on the 10 km course. This is where am­a­teur ath­letes can prob­a­bly glean the most in terms of tech­nique. Watch how the best hold their arms. Look for the for­ward lean that so many of the best main­tain through­out the race. Keep an eye on the turnover – it’s al­most guar­an­teed to be faster than you imag­ined.


As much as you can learn from watch­ing the pros, it’s also just plain ex­cit­ing to see the best in the world com­pete. The race in Mon­treal last year was the only race Flora Duffy en­tered in 2017 that she didn’t win after Ashleigh Gen­tle’s in­cred­i­ble run pow­ered her to the win. The men’s race was ev­ery bit as ex­cit­ing be­cause Javier Gomez took the men’s race by run­ning away from the rest of the field, too.—KM

Pip Tay­lor is a pro­fes­sional triathlete and nu­tri­tion­ist from Aus­tralia.

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