The Leeds-born triathlete credits his parents, Keith and Cath, for teaching him about the physiological and psychological value of food. “A lot of it comes from my mum’s cooking,” he explains. “We were brought up in a family where food was very important because with both parents being doctors they were very, very busy and dinner time was the one time in the evening when we could sit down together. We ate simple, healthy food.
“Finishing with a nice dinner is still part of my routine. I always finish training before the evening meal and I never train post-dinner time. Dinner symbolises the end of the day. That meal means my work is done: now it is time to chill and relax.”
On a typical training day he has a breakfast of porridge with blueberries and strawberries, and some toast with jam. For lunch he has a ham and cheese omelette on toast and a bowl of Greek yoghurt. Dinner could be a sausage casserole or chicken fajitas. “I subconsciously adapt to the seasons so in the race season I might have a healthier dessert like Greek yoghurt with fruit but when it is cold and dark in winter I might fancy a bacon sandwich for breakfast or some custard and crumble after a run.”
Brownlee takes a much more detailed and scientific approach to his nutrition around race day, prioritising energy-dense carbohydrates beforehand and muscle-repairing protein afterwards. But the practical manifestation of this sports science is still surprisingly simple. “I used to have a pizza before a race as my theory was that you are getting in carbs and protein and you can’t get food poisoning because it is so simple. But as I have grown older my stomach has become more sensitive so my pre-race meal is now rice and chicken. It sounds bland but you are just trying to get calories in without any risk.”
Brownlee is sponsored by the sports nutrition brand OTE and he uses their products on race day, starting with a natural energy bar two hours before the start, followed by a 750ml drink of water and two energy gels on the bike leg – one after 10km and one after 35km, just before the run. “Afterwards I get a protein bar in to help my muscles, then I have a shower and go out for a burger. Honestly, you just fancy nice burger and chips after a race and I know I’ve trained hard so I enjoy it.”