Meal Plan for Triathlete Training

Triathlons are races that involve three endurance and sequential disciplines, most commonly swimming, cycling and running in immediate succession over various distances. There are four main distances of triathlon for varying experiences:

  • Sprint Distance: 750m (0.47 mile) swim + 20km (12 mile) cycle + 5km (3.1 mile) run.
  • Intermediate / Standard / Olympic distance: 1.5km (0.93 mile) swim + 40km (25 mile) cycle + 10km (6.2 mile) run.
  • Long Course: 1.9km (1.2 mile) swim + 90km (56 mile) cycle + 21.1km (13.1 mile) run (half marathon).
  • Ultra Distance / Ironman: 3.8km (2.4 mile) swim + 180.2km (112.0 mile) cycle + 42.2km (26.2 mile) run (full marathon).

All levels require considerable endurance with a high demand on the cardiovascular system. The Ironman is really only for elite athletes and involves considerable experience and training.

Training for the triathlons will involve swimming, sprint and longer distance running and cycling as well as some gym work 2-3 times per week. Longer distance training sessions are very enduring and put a high demand on energy levels. Following an event no training for a few days is essential to recuperate.

The meal plan below is a good example for a training day for a recreational triathlon competitor. However, on harder training days you may need to eat more carbohydrate both pre- and post-training in order to maximise the muscle and liver carbohydrate stores.

Porridge: 75-100g oats + tbsp ground linseeds + 250ml skimmed milk + tsp sugar
2 slices granary bread, toasted + olive oil based spread + natural peanut butter
250ml fresh fruit juice
3-4 rye crispbread + 150g cottage cheese or quark
Item fruit
Mug green tea
75-100g (dry weight) basmati rice / wholewheat pasta
150g chicken / turkey / fish
100g mixed nuts, seeds & dried fruit
Mixed salad
Low fat, low sugar yoghurt
2-4 squares Easy Flapjacks
Large handful mixed nuts
Large banana
Mug green tea
30 minutes pre-training
6 Oatcakes
100g mixed nuts, seeds & dried fruit
Training session
Sip plenty of water or isotonic drink where possible
Immediately post training
30g whey protein + 20g maltodextrin + 20g dextrose in water
Evening meal (45 mins later)
Lean fillet steak or chicken breast or fish + herbs to taste
Boiled new potatoes or basmati rice or dry roasted sweet potatoes or wholewheat pasta
Loads of vegetables
Low fat, no added sugar yoghurt
Unsweetened muesli + 200ml skimmed milk
Item fruit
1 hour pre-bed
2-3 satsumas / plums
Small handful mixed nuts & seeds

The above plan provides sufficient levels of all macro- and micronutrients for most recreational triathletes. However, people are different and men and women will require different amounts of food and more experienced, harder trainers will have larger requirements. The plan is merely a general guide; there is no mention of portion sizes on purpose so that you can adapt it to suit yourself. You must eat a variety of different meats/fish, complex carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables every day, and drink plenty of water. This plan is based around sustained slow released low glycaemic carbohydrates to help provide energy for exercise sessions. Oatcakes and granary bread will top up this slow released energy through the daytime.

Plans for people with illness or medical conditions in no way should override advice provided specifically for you by your doctor, clinical dietitian or other clinician. We advise that you seek the advice of a suitably qualified physician before commencing any exercise regime, following any dietary or nutritional regimen or beginning the use of any dietary supplements, legal or otherwise. The information provided on the Website is intended as information only and does not constitute advice. Therefore, it must not be relied on to assist in making or refraining from making a decision, or to assist in deciding on a course of action.