A Simple Guide to Triathlon Race Day Nutrition
It's useful to go into any race over 90 mins with a nutrition plan. Carbohydrate supplementation during endurance races has been shown to improve performance. I want to note that good fueling will NOT make up for poor fitness or bad pacing. It will not save you from bonking if you go out too hard, no matter how well you "nail" your nutrition. Most of your muscle glycogen stores for the race are already there from your eating in the days proceeding and your taper before the race. You will go a certain small percentage longer and faster by supplementing these stores during a race, but nothing more.
Below are some fueling suggestions I use from a pre-eminent (Australian of course) sports nutritionist from this book I refer to a lot. Note a couple of things 1) if you're race is going to be < 90 mins carb supplementation is not even going to help so may as well stick to water and avoid the potential tummy upsets. 2) wash gels down with water (not sports drink) to get the right concentration. If I can get the required carbs in with an all liquid solution I will because I just think it reduces the chance of gastric discomfort. Experiment in training.
People (and some nutrition marketers) can make this incredibly complicated but it's not. Get the sugar in at the right concentration, practice with whatever form/flavor to make sure you don't have a gut reaction to it. Done.
➡️ CALCULATE YOUR FUEL NEEDS. Take 30g-60g carbs per for efforts 1:30 - 2:30 hours ; At greater than 2:30 hours, consider 70g-90g carb per hour intake.
➡️ TREAT HYDRATION SEPARATELY. Fluid intake varies greatly by individual sweat rate and environment. Sweat loss can be as little as 500ml per hour or over 2 liters per hour on very hot days. So even if you are consuming fluids 90g of carbohydrates per hour, as an example, you should also consider your total fluid intake and may need to top up with plain water. And if you are consuming gels, bars or other solids you will definitely need to ingest water, preferably at the time of ingestion (washing it down!). How do you figure out how much water you need? Drink to thirst!
➡️ AVOID FAT, FIBER AND PROTEIN. They reduce fuel and fluid delivery and are not useful on-the-day energy sources! So when choosing a food, choose one that is low in fat, protein and fiber.
➡️ RACE NUTRITION SUGGESTIONS
➡️ EXAMPLE RACE NUTRITION PLAN:
So I'm pretty OK at predicting finish times for athletes I'm coaching individually from their training and past performances so this is helpful for planning how much fuel they'll need for the race. Of course you have to be flexible with this on the day depending on your splits on the day and how your gut is coping with the intake. Let's take the example of an athlete projecting to finish an Olympic distance triathlon in 2:30 with splits of swim +T1: 0:30, bike: 1:15,. run: 0:45. So we'd be shooting for 60g/hour, 150g total. Now, the slight complication with triathlon is you can't (or it's inconvenient to) fuel on the swim. And I like to wait 5-10 mins into the bike at least when heart rate and stress of T1 has settled a little before taking anything in. So here's an example plan with those caveats in mind
FUELING SET-UP AND LOGISTICS:
CARRY ON BIKE:
One bottle (500ml) of NEVERSECOND C90 HIGH CARB DRINK (90g)
One bottle (750ml) of WATER
CARRY ON RUN:
Two NEVERSECOND C30+ ENERGY GEL WITH CAFFEINE (30g) - store in pockets of your triathlon race suit.
BIKE: Starting 5 mins into the bike drink the bottle of sports drink alternating with water according to thirst over the duration of the bike. (90g total)
RUN: Assuming aid stations at 1 mile and 4 miles take gels before you arrive at aid station and wash down with water. (60g total)
This plan will hit your 60g/hour goal. By going all liquid on the bike you're not fooling around managing/opening gels or solids or wrappers and can focus on cycling. You're also moving while fueling (a pet peeve of mine is seeing athletes stand around in transition to fuel when they could be moving!). By fueling with gels on the run and you don't have to carry anything heavy or awkward.
When planning for longer events like Ironman you're probably going to want solids and a bit of variety. But just keep in mind the more solid the carb source the more work the gut has to do to break it down. So in my opinion the more liquid, the lower risk. Especially for the shorter, more intense efforts.
I sell Neversecond products. I don't there's a massive difference between the glut of brands out there in the market but the nice thing about Neversecond products is that their portioned into 30g packages which makes planning to guidelines simpler!