Health, Nutrition, Podcast

Nutrition for Triathletes: a deep-dive with Kim Schwabenbauer | EP#8

 March 25, 2017

By  Mikael Eriksson

Nutrition for Triathletes: a deep-dive with Kim Schwabenbauer | EP#8

Do you struggle with nutrition, knowingly or unknowingly? Kim Schwabenbauer is a registered dietitian, triathlon coach, and pro triathlete. Today we make a deep-dive into nutrition for triathletes.

In this Episode you'll learn about:

  • Nutrition principles that apply to most if not all triathletes.
  • The most common nutrition mistakes triathletes make.
  • Why nutrition individualization is so important.
  • How you can get started with your own individualized nutrition strategy.
  • Example scenarios of nutrition strategies for different types of athletes, like complete beginners who train a limited amount of hours, advanced age-groupers, busy executives, vegetarians and vegans, and for triathletes trying to lose weight.
  • Kim's thoughts on low-carb high-fat diets, ketogenic diets, and more.


Listener question: What pre-workout snacks should I eat to fuel my workouts that my stomach can handle?

01:56 -​

  • A banana with a little peanut butter​, or
  • A couple of rice cakes with peanut butter

About Kim Schwabenbauer

03:04 -​

  • Pro-triathlete and triathlon coach
  • Registered dietitian at
  • Recently received her Master’s Degree in Exercise Science
  • Public speaker and lifelong athlete​

What are the basic principles of nutrition that apply to triathletes?

05:00 -​

  • Eat for health first and then performance​
  • Know your nutritional numbers
  • Bars and supplements do not replace food
  • Spread out your protein intake throughout the day

What principles should you follow when you are ready to eat for performance as well as health?

07:53 -

  • Don’t skip sports nutrition for longer workouts
  • After the 1 hour mark, you need to have at least 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour
  • In your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th hour, you should have carbohydrates and electrolytes to have a good workout.

Why do I need to individualize my nutritional plan?

09:55 -​

  • There is a lot of misinformation regarding nutrition​, and what you read in the headlines may not apply to you. The person who wrote that headline or news story does not know your individual history, background and any underlying health conditions
  • You need a good amount of high quality carbohydrates
  • You need fluid that is individualized to you based on your sweat rate.
  • You should know your energy and calorie needs so you know if you are eating enough to support your training

What do you need to know to individualize your sweat rates?

12:01 -

  • Get on a scale before you workout, without clothing​.
  • Do your workout, and keep track of how much fluid you consume during the workout, don’t use the restroom during this period.
  • You get back on the scale after the workout and you will see how much you lost and then put that info into the computer to see your sweat rates.
  • Use this spreadsheet to help you with the math of calculating your sweat rate.

How to get your basal metabolic rate?

12:29 -

  • Go to​
  • Put in your name, age, weight, and how much you are training per day
  • This helps you get a start to know how much calories you need on a daily basis

Use this spreadsheet to calculate an estimated range of for your daily carb and protein needs based on the different athlete types below.

How to individualize nutrition for a 40 year old female who is a beginner triathlete and training 5 to 6 hours per week?

13:48 -

  • You need a enough carbs to fuel your training.
  • A good amount would be about 4 to 5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per day.
  • This ensures you have the right amount for training as well as recovering for the next day.
  • A good amount of protein would be about 1 to 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight.
  • Keep your fat in check, don’t go overboard, but have some healthy fats.
  • For your carbs, include complex carbohydrates, grains (especially whole grains), fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and beans in the 4 to 5 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight.

Listener question: Are grains and wheat really evil?

15:26 -

  • There is a place for every type of carbohydrate in the diet​.
  • Be strategic and smart on when you are going to have which type of carbohydrate.
  • You need the right kind at the right time. Closer to your workout and immediately after a workout it's okay to have some faster, more refined carbohydrates as the body is going to use them immediately anyway.

How to individualize nutrition for an advanced age-grouper, someone trying to qualify for Kona?

18:04 -​

  • You should focus on carbs because everytime you go out on a 4 to 5 hour bike ride, your body only has 2,000 calories of stored carbohydrate.
  • You need to replace that during the workout or you will either not perform in the workout or compromise how you feel after the ride.
  • If you're training 20 hours per week you will need 9 to 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight spread out throughout the day.
  • Know your calorie level and make sure you are meeting that on a daily basis.
  • Your protein should be around 1.2 to 1.8 grams per kilo of weight per day.
  • Make sure your protein intake is high enough, especially right after workouts.
  • You need 20 to 25 grams of protein and about 75 grams of carbs within that 45-minute window after workout to ensure you are really giving your body what it needs to recover.

Should advanced age-groupers try to emulate what the professional triathletes eat?

20:29 -

  • Pros are often genetically predisposed to great metabolism.
  • We need to focus on our own specific nutrition because unlike the pros, we can't get away with poor nutritional habits.
  • If the pros are eating right, then follow it. Otherwise, it will not work out the same for you.

How to individualize nutrition for the busy executive who has a very busy schedule?

​23:19 -

  • Don’t skip meals.
  • If you have that much money, have someone else do the meal planning and preparation for you.
  • Watch your caffeine intake. It's fine to have coffee, but don't use it as a crutch.
  • Getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night is going to really help you make better nutritional choices.

How to individualize for special food group like vegans?

24:53 -​

  • You should make sure that you are getting vitamin B12, from a supplement or products like tofu.
  • Also make sure you get vitamin D and calcium, especially for women.
  • Monitor your protein intake all the time and make sure you get enough.
  • Make sure you are not getting too much fiber right around the workout. Vegan and vegetarian diets are typically very high in fiber.

How to individualize nutrition for those who want to lose weight?

26:11 -

  • Be strategic about your carbs​, keep your protein and fiber intake high. Have fruit and vegetables throughout the day.
  • Know your numbers and get baseline blood work done. For example, thyroid issues may make any weight loss attempts futile.

Listener question: Is it worth going on a ketogenic diet? When would you recommend a high carb low fat diet or vice versa as part of periodizing your nutrition?

​26:55 -

  • Most athletes should be getting a minimum number of carbohydrates per diet​
  • Your brain only functions on carbohydrates
  • This metabolic efficiency thing might work on a very short term basis but might not improve your performance long term
  • As your training picks up, your carbohydrates should also pickup
  • Your workout is going to suffer if you don’t have enough on a daily basis
  • Periodize your nutrition as you would your training

Rapid fire segment

28:58 -​

  • What's your favorite book, blog or resource related to nutrition or triathlon: "The Life of a Triathlete" by Meredith Kessler
  • What's your favorite piece of gear or equipment: A blender
  • What personal habit has helped you achieve success: I just refuse to give up no matter what.
  • What's your favorite recipe for a meal or snack: Smoothies made of 20 grams whey protein, berries, spinach and flax seeds
  • What do you wish you had known or had done differently at some earlier point in your triathlon journey: I wish I had hired a good coach earlier​.

Connect with Kim

30:55 -​

Subscribe to That Triathlon Show and never miss an episode!

Mikael Eriksson

I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Please contact me if you have feedback on the podcast or want to make suggestions for improvement or send in a question for a Q&A episode.

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