How Long After A Triathlon Should I Eat? And what not to eat

Racing a triathlon can be a fun activity if you know what you are doing. You should have proper knowledge of what to eat and when to eat that. Do you start eating just after the race? Do you wait and allow your body functions to go back to normal before you have a proper meal.  This can be really confusing, especially if you are new to all this. This article will provide you with all the basic information you need to make your diet plan for your big day.

There is no time limit to start eating just after a triathlon. If you feel like eating after the triathlon you should do it. It is ideal for you to hydrate your body and replenish sugar in your body within 30 minutes of crossing that finish line. Hydrate your body with a sports drink, water, or isotonic fluid to replace lost electrolytes in your body just after the triathlon. 

So how Long After A Triathlon Should I Eat? Within 30 minutes you should also have a carbohydrate-rich snack to provide your body with essential energy components. Your body will be in need of instant energy after a race and carbs are the best way to provide it.

Make sure to check our post on Triathlon Nutrition Guide: Before, During & After Race (What Not To Eat !!!)

When to eat after a triathlon
When to eat after a triathlon

Within one hour of finishing the triathlon

Within one hour of finishing the triathlon, your ideal meal should contain lots of carbohydrates and plenty of fluids.

-Fluids– Drink a lot of sports drinks and electrolytes replenishing fluids. Drink even if you are not thirsty. Your body loses lots of water and salt because of sweating. Dehydration is the major issue you need to combat just after the triathlon. Hydrating yourself can help you in recovering just after the triathlon. Plain water doesn’t help much in recovery that’s why you should make sure you take electrolyte-rich fluid. To get an estimate of if you are drinking enough fluids, you should keep an eye on the color of your urine. Dark urine means you are still dehydrated and you need to drink more water. Clear urine means you are adequately hydrated and now you can drink water whenever you feel thirsty.

-Carbohydrates- Carbohydrates rich foods like bananas, nuts, peanut butter, energy bars are the immediate recovery foods you should be taking after your race. Our body uses carbohydrates as a source of energy during the race. We need an immediate diet of carbohydrates and sugars to make up for lost sugars in our body.

Many athletes don’t feel like eating something sweet just after a triathlon because of muscle fatigue and obvious digestive distress due to the high sugar content used during the race. If you don’t feel like eating something sweet after your race, it’s okay. Just grab a light carbohydrate-rich snack and allow your body to come to normal for like 30 minutes or so. Meanwhile, you can take your fluids to compensate for lost water. After that, you can take your dose of carbohydrates without forcing it on your body and stomach.

Ideal meal

  • A fruit smoothie and ice cream can give you necessary and much-needed carbohydrates for recovery.
  • A mix of water and sports drink can assist you in getting back to the game in no time.

Within 2 to 5 hours of finishing the race

You need a proper meal with a balanced diet within 2-5 hours of finishing the race. This balanced meal should contain fats, carbohydrates, protein, and fluids.

Proteins- Proteins are the most important recovery food. There are plenty of foods that provide essential proteins. Eggs, salmon, Protein powder all work fine after a day of the race. Your body is mainly made up of proteins. All your muscles are made up of proteins. After race muscles need to heal themselves from the strenuous race and rigorous exercise they just went through. This is why your body needs proteins. 

Fats- Our body utility fats as a source of energy. Carbohydrates are stored in a limited amount in our body. When these limited stores deplete, our body needs an alternative source to compensate for energy usage. Fats stored in our body are the next to a major source for our body. During the race, our body stores of carbohydrates are spent pretty quickly. Our body then burns fats to keep us running. This is why you should have a balanced amount of fat in your meal after a race. Fat from natural sources works fantastic when added to your diet. It works both in terms of flavor and texture in addition to giving you energy for high-endurance events.

Carbohydrates- I don’t need to emphasize this one. Carbohydrates are essential for your recovery. If your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates, it can crash pretty easily on the way. Low carbohydrates can even slow down your recovery time. Have a decent amount of carbs in your meal after the triathlon. 

Ideal meal

  • Protein shake which can provide 20-30 g of proteins is best for post-race recovery.
  • Boiled rice or pasta noodles with salmon or grilled chicken are a great way of supplementing your body with the necessary carbs, proteins, and fats. Adding avocado and olive oil is a plus if you want to add flavor and nutrition to your diet.
  • Fruits rolls or fruits packed in heavy syrup supply about 280g of carbohydrates and are great for post triathlon meal.

Within 24 hours of racing a triathlon

After a balanced meal, you can go back to your normal routine.  Eat when you are hungry but drinking electrolyte balanced food even when you are not thirsty is essential. 

Now, You have replenished your nutrients, it’s time to work on your muscle soreness. A key part of reducing muscle soreness is eating low glycemic food. A low glycemic food is a food that spikes less insulin level. It has less sugar in it as compared to other normal carb-rich foods. 

Why eat low glycemic food?

Insulin levels can impose the body’s natural healing properties. High glycemic foods enable the body to produce a large amount of insulin. Although they are beneficial immediately after a race, prolonged consumption of sugar-rich foods delays the healing process and escalates inflammation of body muscles.

Meats, nuts, vegetables, etc are low glycemic foods. They are rich in proteins and fats. They don’t spike insulin levels and allow your body to combat inflammation and relieve symptoms of soreness.

What to avoid after racing a triathlon?

There are some foods that you should avoid immediately after racing a triathlon. These are the foods that either work as diuretics and dehydrate your body or they are the foods that do provide evide the nutritional value that a triathlon runner needs.

Green leafy salad- This is something that seems healthy and a choice for a post-race meal. It is not. This may seem Healthy but it is low on proteins, carbs, and fats. You need these nutrients after a race. They are the ones that will help you get back on your feet and rebuild your body. Green leaf salad or tomatoes will do nothing for your sore legs and fatigued muscle. You might want to eat something with more nutritional value

Alcohol– This is a very important piece of advice. Avoid alcohol. Both pre-race and post-race. Alcohol act as a diuretic. It dehydrated you quickly. This is why it is a really bad choice of fluid intake before a race. After a race, excessive amounts of alcohol can slow down the recovery process. Racing a triathlon causes micro-tears in your muscles. Alcohol slows down the healing of those tears. It results in excessive inflammation and soreness of muscles. So, this is not a very good idea to celebrate your triathlon medal with beer cans.

To get more idea about what you should eat post-race. Check some more articles.

Final thoughts

A triathlon is a long event. You are supposed to keep a check on your diet before and after the event. Our bodies rely on what we eat for proper functioning. Many myths are surrounding avoid eating just after racing a triathlon or wait some time to rest your body. There is no basis to those myths. We are here to bust those myths.

You should start eating as soon as you finish the race. Have a drink of choice to make your body hydrated and choose foods that are rich in carbohydrates and appealing for your appetite. They are the ones that will help you most in regaining your energy. If you don’t want to eat something sweet after a full day of gulping down energy bars and bundles of sugars to keep you going, there is no need to worry. You can have some salty snacks like chips, salted biscuits, or lasagna to meet the immediate carb demand of your body.

Your diet should have a balanced amount of proteins and fats which will help you in recovering. Protein helps in rebuilding your muscles and fats help you in filing your long term energy stores. 

Also, check out “What Should You Eat After Cycling? How Far Before Or After To Eat!


An extreme triathlete who have competed in dozens of triathlons including IronMans and Extreme triathlons.

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