Ironman Nutrition Tips

Here are a few nutrition tips to keep you fit and healthy throughout your training.

BEDSIDE
Have a bottle of water by your bed and have a drink if you wake up during the night. Getting out of bed to get a drink will wake you up making it more difficult to go back to sleep. Keeping hydrated will speed up muscle recovery and help glycogen recovery.

BIKE NUTRITION
The Biggest mistake is not practicing what will happen in the Ironman. Prior to a long training bike ride you will probably have a big breakfast. In an Ironman you will have had your breakfast 3-4 hours before and would have already covered for 3.8k. In the Ironman you will need to hydrate after the swim then work on taking in solids. It is much easier to eat solid foods on the bike.

CALORIES
Know your calorie requirements. You need to take in between 35-60% of your total calories needed to ride the Ironman bike section. Always have enough food for an extra 20% of your anticipated training or triathlon cycle section.

Mechanical or weather conditions may need you to adapt your intake.

Getting lost or doing extra you will need more calories. For example a Torq bar 65g has 210 calories, a SIS go bar 65g has 211 calories a SIS Go gel 60ml has 86 calories, Power bar (caffeine) green apple 41g has 105 calories. PSP energy has 375 calories per 100g per 1 liter; SIS Go Electrolyte has 291 calories per 80g per 1 liter.

If you use 800 calories per hour on the bike you need to consume between 280-480 calories. Any less and you will fatigue later in the training session or take longer to recover. Too much, and, either, more blood is diverted to the digestive system or fails to digest your food then you will become bloated, feel or be sick.

So if you drink in one hour -1 Liter of PSP (375) and one bar (211) you would have consumed 586 calories. It is likely that you will either have to slow down or stop and be sick. Trust me I have never been sick in training!! But many athletes including myself have been sick while racing Ironman.

HYDRATION
1 Liter of water (2x500ml) weighs 1 kilo. A loss of just 2% in bodyweight, which is a kilo for a 50kg athlete, will reduce their performance from 10-20%. So if cycling at 20mph you will slow down to 16-18 mph or running at 8 minute miles expect your speed to slow down to 8:50-10:00 minute miles; Even though your perceived effort remains the same. Also your concentration, judgment and decision-making can be effected.

If you have a shortfall of 250ml an hour within 4 hours, a 50kg athlete will have problems with dehydration. You need to learn to drink more on the bike, otherwise in your Ironman you will under perform or not finish.

NIGHT BEFORE
Stick to favorite tried and tested foods that are low in fiber. I have found that bread, pasta, potatoes, rice with a mild sauce and a salad is enough.

QUICKER RECOVERY
the better you are at proper refueling, the quicker you will recover.

RACE BREAKFAST
Try out your race breakfast several mornings in the months before long training sessions. Monitor when do you get hungry?

If making porridge (Oats) in the microwave get the measurements right so on race morning this is one thing less to worry about, your pre race meal will be cooked as you usually have it. Microwaves vary in strength and cook foods at different rates. Even oats from different brands take different times to prepare to your requirements.

EQUIPMENT
Do not be so busy fitting in that last training session only to arrive at your race destination to find all the energy bars inner tubs/tyres or gels are sold out at the local sports and bike store. Triathletes generally have a habit of expecting to buy last minute things at the local bike shop or at trade stands.

If they do not have what you need this can result in added stress and time wasting having to travel to unknown destination to find even the simplest of things. Buying too much is another trait. Save your energy. Plan what you are going to eat and take it with you.

MEAL SIZE
BIGGER meals, High volumes have more LITTLE and often up to 8 meal/snacks. Low Gi to keep blood insulin levels stable avoiding also helps improve fat for fuel. Low volume days have 4-5 BIGGER meals.

Try NOTHING new in the 3 days before the Ironman. That food on the restaurant menu could be the last thing that ruins your race even 3 nights from Ironman day. It may be healthy and safe to eat but may not agree with you.

QUEUING
Be smart avoid queues this will wear you out more so if in the sun.

THINK
Visualize what you are going to do and feel at certain parts of the Triathlon weeks before the race otherwise do this on the night before the Ironman and you could become more anxious and not be able to drift off to sleep.

TRAIN & RACE NUTRITION
If you ride at 16 mph in training and need 500ml of fluid then in the race you ride at 20 mph your fluid requirements will be 20% greater as you have traveled that much further. Plus you need to play catch up with hydration lost while you were swimming.

WEIGHT CHANGE
A rapid loss or change in weight (up or down) is typically a sign of a person that is under extreme stress. Low volume days have 4-5.