One of the most common questions that my sports nutritionist friend gets is whether a person should eat before his/her morning swims. His response is always “it depends.” While I am not a nutritionist, I would agree with him. Not only does it depend on your goals as an athlete, but it also depends on the type of workout.
What is a triathlon diet that works?
Eating before a workout has its advantages. If you are doing a hard workout that is over an hour and includes sprints then having a light breakfast before would be advisable. Your body needs the extra fuel and sugar to perform those speed sets. If you skip breakfast before these types of swims, I can guarantee that you are going to be feeling sluggish on those harder intensities. Sacrificing a good workout and hitting fast splits for the sake of losing weight is not worth it. There is a time and a place for weight loss but when it comes to hard, key workouts and performance, it should take a back seat (see below for a good recipe that I use before my weekly 5k swim workout). Good ideas for a quick bite that will not leave you feeling like there is a brick in your stomach are a half cup of oatmeal soaked overnight drizzled with honey and some nuts, an apple with almond butter, a small sweet potato with granola (I really like Udi’s Gluten Free), and of course a good cup of coffee to get jump started.
However, if your morning swim is just 45 minutes of drills then you do not need the extra fuel. In fact it might be beneficial to not eat. Doing an easy workout in a fasted state forces your body to use fat as its primary source of fuel rather than carbohydrates, making you more fat adapted the more you do it. Becoming fat adapted is helpful in distance and endurance sports because fat is a cleaner burning fuel over carbohydrates that can give us a temporary burst of energy—which is great for sprinting—but leaves you drained shortly after ingesting.
Fueling is a very individual preference, so I encourage you to experiment. If you feel better with just a cup of coffee and are having no problems getting through the workout, drink away!
My loaded sweet potato:
1 small to medium sized sweet potato cooked in the microwave for 6 minutes
10 grams vegan protein powder (non soy based-I personally use Jarrow’s Optimal plant protein and no they do not sponsor me unfortunately)
OR whey or egg protein powder of your choice
20 grams Udi’s granola (again not sponsored or endorsed by them)
1 tsp peanut butter
1 tsp raw honey
1 tsp cinnamon
Cut the sweet potato down the center so that it creates a nice “bowl.” Top the sweet potato with peanut butter and honey, fill with whey powder and granola, dust with cinnamon.