Micro-Nutrition: Vital For Triathlon Training {Guest Post}

The role nutrition plays in the quality of a performance for any sport is now well established.  When it comes to the more physically demanding events, nutrition becomes evermore important. When you're looking at an activity that involves three disciplines - swimming, cycling and running - spread over several hours of continuous toil, nutrition is not only important for performance factors, it's crucial just to ensure you can complete such a race in the first place. You may have heard a saying amongst triathletes: complete before you compete. Nutrition itself is a rich area of study.  This article will concern itself with one aspect of nutrition: micro-nutrition.

What is Micro-Nutrition?

Micro-nutrition describes vitamins and minerals.  Examples include vitamin A, B, C, D, E, K, calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, zinc, omega-3 and omega-6 oils. Many athletes make the mistake of focusing only on macro-nutrition (protein, fat, carbs) and neglect the little stuff like vitamins and minerals. If you want to perform at your best, it is important that you don’t make this mistake.

How Can Micro-Nutrition Help a Triathlete?

Vitamins and minerals help:
  • bolster our immune system
  • promote bone growth
  • promote haemoglobin generation which in turn improves oxygen circulation in the blood
  • promote hydration
  • lower inflammation
  • regulate energy release
Bolstering the Immune System (vitamins A, C, D, E, K, calcium) Many tri-athletes complain of feeling run-down after a long race - because their immune system is low at that point.  Micro-nutrients help strengthen the immune system, meaning you're stronger after and between races. [caption id="attachment_8864" align="alignright" width="300"]micro-nutrition - triathlon - training - ironman Jesse's dinner which is loaded with vitamins and minerals.[/caption] Helping With Hydration (sodium, calcium, magnesium) We all know that good hydration gives us energy and helps us perform.  However, good hydration isn't only about taking liquids during the race.  A healthy body can help utilise those liquids better, and micro-nutrients help the body hydrate more efficiently. Lowering Inflammation (vitamins A and D) Injuries inflame muscles, putting us out of action.  Lowering inflammation helps speed up the recovery process.  Micro-nutrients help reduce inflammation. Improving Aerobic Performance (Iron) Iron promotes haemoglobin production, which in turn improves oxygen circulation in the blood.  That in turn helps improve aerobic performance for the athlete - vital when you're swimming, cycling and running. Regulate Energy Release (vitamin B) A triathlon can last anywhere from 1 hour (in a sprint) to 17 hours (Ironman cut-off.)  Your body has to release energy evenly and steadily throughout this time - otherwise you'll find yourself struggling just to get on your bike when the race is only one-third of the way through.  Micro-nutrients help your body release energy slowly and steadily - perfect for such a long race.

Examples of Micro-Nutrition 

Essential Fatty Acids Fat has had a bad press over the last few decades, but certain fats are actually very good for us.  Essential fatty acids - found in salmon, tuna, mackerel, sunflower and hemp seeds, algae and nuts - helps a tri-athlete with aerobic capacity, reduce inflammation, and speed up recovery. Trace Minerals You don't get more micro than trace minerals.  As the name suggests, these minerals should be consumed in miniscule quantities.  Despite such tiny daily requirements, these minerals have a big influence on bone health, your nervous system, hormones and metabolism. Examples of trace minerals include:-
  • zinc
  • iron
  • zinc
  • copper
  • selenium
  • chromium
You can find such trace minerals naturally occurring in seafood, legumes, whole grains, seeds, nuts and red meats. Phyto-nutrients Phyto-nutrients are found in edible plants.  Examples of phyto-nutrients include:-
  • carotenoids
  • flavonoids
  • isoflavones
While such phyto-nutrients can be found in supplements, the nature of phyto-nutrients is very complex, and it's highly recommended you naturally consume these types of nutrients via fruits, vegetables and herbs that contain them - such as tomatoes, dark leafy greens, onions, tea, soy and applies. Taking In Your Micro-nutrients Naturally Tri-athletes need more nutrition than most people because of the extra demands on the body, so taking a good nutrition supplement is probably a good idea; vitamin D supplements in particular are helpful when you're stuck in a country with low rates of strong sunlight (e.g. the UK in winter-time). However, for many other micro-nutrients, you'll actually get a better "bang for your buck" by consuming them naturally rather than through supplements. So it is a good idea to focus on a healthy diet and use supplements to get an extra boost or as a nutritional insurance. Any serious tri-athlete will already be very conscious of what they eat anyway, so why not include more micro-nutrient rich food groups into your diet?   A Little About Me Hi there, my name is Jesse. I am a nutrition expert and a fitness fanatic, I like extreme sports and living a healthy lifestyle. I work at Seven Seas, who sell fitness and health supplements and I also like to write blog posts (like this one!) about health.
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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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