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Thu 29th Sep 2022
Nutrition: recovery in Sprint Triathlon
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Thursday 22nd May 2014

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According to statistics from the Triathlon Industry Association, Sprint distance triathlons are the most popular triathlon events in the UK. That is backed up by our own Tri247 events calendar, where we have well over 400 Sprint events listed for 2014.

Given that it's the most popular distance, how should approach nutrition for recovery in the Sprint triathlon, to make sure you are ready to get back into training for the next one? In this piece, sports nutritionist and triathlete Emma Barraclough addresses that very issue, looking first at the particular demands of the discipline.

Nutrition for Recovery in Sprint Triathlon

The Three R's

The 'three R's of recovery' apply to whatever distance of triathlon you are racing;

  • rehydrate,
  • replenish (muscle glycogen), and
  • repair (muscle protein).

These should be considered after each and every training session. However, sprint triathlon demands slightly different physiology and therefore training practices.

Speed, Power and Endurance

Whilst still very demanding aerobically, performing at sprint distance is about maximizing your power output over the three disciplines. This demands a unique combination of speed, power and endurance with a demand on carbohydrate and protein for maximising training adaptations, and racing at your best.

Racing at a higher intensity than at longer distance races limits how much fuel and fluid you should take on board during the race. After around 1-1.5 hours of intense racing, you will have used a good proportion of your muscle glycogen stores. This needs to be replaced as quickly as possible after the race.

Putting in powerful efforts also causes muscle damage. Whilst this is essential to create training adaptations, it also increases your protein requirements, as does including more strength and conditioning sessions in your training program.

Helen Jenkins

Recovery: drinks, bars, food

Recovery drinks are an excellent way to replenish and rehydrate post-race or training session. Your metabolism remains lifted for around 30 minutes post-exercise, and you will absorb nutrients much faster in this period. Ideally you need a beverage containing of carbohydrates and proteins that can be mixed in your training bag or transition box ready to go as soon as you finish. SiS REGO Rapid Recovery is an example of such a drink on the market.

The carbohydrate in these drinks stimulates your insulin response, encouraging your muscles to take in the carbohydrate and replenish your glycogen stores. By delivering carbohydrate with the protein this also increases the uptake of the amino acids to assist in muscle protein synthesis.

Recovery bars are formulated along similar guidelines but will take longer to digest and absorb. The fluid composition of a drink also assists in rehydration. You should aim to drink 150% of the fluid you have lost during your event. A drink containing electrolytes will help you to retain the fluid better by decreasing urinary output versus water.

Of course you can use food to recover, though it needs to be accessed within the 30 -minute window. It is difficult however to balance wraps, sandwiches etc. with enough protein to fully assist your recovery, as they take much longer to digest and usually contain some fat as well, which slows your digestion down and may delay the nutrients reaching your muscles. It is often also more difficult to stomach solid food after an intense race effort.

Types of Protein

The type of protein is also important, as it affects the rate of absorption. Egg and milk proteins will only be absorbed at 2.5-3g per hour. Many recovery products are formulated from whey protein. This is derived form milk but is much more rapidly absorbed at 8-10g per hour.

Whey protein also has a high leucine content. Leucine is an amino acid; the building blocks of proteins. As well as providing fuel for muscle protein rebuilding, leucine also stimulates the rate of muscle protein synthesis. This can help to further enhance your training adaptations in training and recovery from racing.

You can absorb 20-25g of protein in one serving, any extra will be excreted in your urine. For this reason you need to have around four 20-25g servings of protein throughout your normal day.

So whether you are training or racing, make sure you look after the three R's to get the most from your training and recover from racing strongly in sprint triathlon.

Emma Barraclough is a Sports Nutritionist at SiS. Qualified with a BSc. in Sport and Exercise Science and an IOC Diploma in Sports Nutrition, she has worked with Great Britain Ice Hockey since 2006 and provided nutritional consultancy support to athletes in a range of sports including running, triathlon and rugby.

She regularly represents Great Britain as an age group triathlete and has completed six Ironmans, placing 3rd in Ironman Wales in 2013 (AG 25-29). Alongside her work at SiS, Emma is currently completing an MSc. in Sports Nutrition and training for her seventh and eighth Ironmans.

Emma Barraclough

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