Break Bad Fuelling Habits

Five bad fuelling habits you didn't know you had - and how to change them

Posted: 18 November 2009

It's hard to break bad fuelling habits if you don't even know they're affecting your performance. That's why mistakes are repeated. Sports dietician Suzanne Girard Eberle says a lot of triathletes form bad habits "because they don't think about food". By recognising your errors you can develop a routine that ensures optimum energy every time you train. Here are five common mistakes and ways to avoid them.

Skipping breakfast

Some people aren't hungry in the morning. Others skip breakfast to trim calories, says Eberle. Neither is a good strategy, because undereating in the morning usually leads to increased calorie consumption later in the day. Also, eating breakfast replenishes your liver's glycogen stores, which typically dip while you're asleep. An ample supply of liver glycogen will stabilise your blood sugar as you train, keep your levels from spiking and ensure you don't run out of all-important energy.

Change it: If time is your problem, stock up on just-add-milk breakfasts such as cereal and porridge. If solid foods seem unappealing in the morning, whip up a fruit and yoghurt smoothie.

Experimenting at the wrong time

Trying a new food or drink during a race usually spells disaster, but training sessions are a great time to discover what fuels you best. "Training rides are prime opportunities to practise race-time eating and drinking strategies," says Eberle. Once you discover a winning formula, you'll approach your next triathlon with a foolproof plan.

Change it: Test new foods on shorter rides before eating them on longer rides or during races. Designate one day a week as a new-foods day. You'll never discover your ideal fuelling combinations until you mix things up a little.

Under-fuelling on long runs and rides

Eating on the run or bike can be tricky. Eberle says athletes often fail to take in enough energy during tough workouts to realise their potential.

Change it: Fill your drinks bottle with a sports drink rather than water and set your watch alarm for every 15 minutes to remind you to sip. On a ride, make a game out of eating all the snacks you've stashed in your jersey. You lose if you end the ride with uneaten food.

Missing the recovery window

If you eat within 30 to 60 minutes of ending your workout your body will fast-track nutrients to muscle repair and glycogen replacement. After that, you'll still benefit, says Eberle, just not as much. If you put off eating, you're more likely to feel tired from the effort, not stronger for the next one. That's a crucial difference when you're training in three disciplines, back to back.

Change it: Prepare your recovery foods before you train so they're ready for you to eat when you most need them. Far from home? Pack a sandwich or an energy bar.

Not drinking after bike training

Too often, triathletes stop drinking when the ride ends, but because it's almost impossible to take in enough fluids while riding to fully replace what you've lost, triathletes end workouts dehydrated, which compromises recovery.

Change it: Refill your bottle after a ride and aim to drink the contents within an hour.

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triathlon novices, triathlon training

Discuss this article

I definately advise drinking a pint of water when you get home from anything long. Dehydration makes me feel so tired and weak and I definately dont repair as well. I also recommend banana as no other food or energy bar has helped as much on the bike especially for me.
Posted: 10/12/2009 at 16:57

pah - there's only one refuelling strategy


what a bizarre 1st post btw
Posted: 10/12/2009 at 17:13

don't forget, vodka, chocolate and chips
Posted: 10/12/2009 at 17:15

Guinness !!!!

........... and chips

Posted: 10/12/2009 at 17:18

haha, i do wonder a bit about aligning this forum with a triathlon publication few of us read.
Posted: 10/12/2009 at 18:46


haha, i do wonder a bit about aligning this forum with a triathlon publication few of us read.

ah it's online.  easy enough read then, doh.

Posted: 10/12/2009 at 18:47

fat buddha wrote (see)
pah - there's only one refuelling strategy BEER!

Couldn't agree more

As soon as I've finished any sort of exercise I crave a pint of good ale

Posted: 10/12/2009 at 18:48

Another vote for beer, anyway from what I know there's water involved in the making of beer so that covers the dehydration situation
Posted: 10/12/2009 at 19:20

Beer, definitely. And hasn't it got like barley and stuff in it? That's healthy isn't it?
Posted: 10/12/2009 at 19:33

beer - carbs; chips - carbs; chocolate - carbs. So all good then
Posted: 10/12/2009 at 20:08

But Mike Wrenn, if you want to be anonymous (hence the head-less avatar) you may want to change your forum nickname from Mike Wrenn to something a bit more anonymous, unless of course Mike Wrenn isn't your name
Posted: 10/12/2009 at 20:21

Posted: 10/12/2009 at 22:50

<!-- by thebeersnob -->

Purpletri fairy wrote (see)
beer - carbs; chips - carbs; chocolate - carbs. So all good then

2 out of 3 ain't bad

Posted: 10/12/2009 at 23:05

Triathlon, an extreme sport, undertaken by only the foolhardiest of ultra athletes. Requiring inhuman levels of stamina, SAS levels of endurance, surely only the Gods could ever do this....

Piracy reduces it to beer, chips, chocolate and cake.

Now that's class....

Actually, Barlos makes it class.... 

Posted: 10/12/2009 at 23:12

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