Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Feature The Perfect Fuelling Plan -



Keep it sim­ple

What­ever the race dis­tance, aim to get your nu­tri­tion from as few sources as pos­si­ble. The sim­pler your race nu­tri­tion plan is, the less likely it is to go awry. The one es­sen­tial nu­tri­tion source for triathlons is a sports drink con­tain­ing wa­ter, elec­trolyte min­er­als and car­bo­hy­drates. I have raced en­tire Iron­man events – and fin­ished strong, even neg­a­tively split­ting the marathon in one case – with noth­ing but a sports drink.

In most cases, though, it is best to sup­ple­ment your sports drink in­take with an ad­di­tional source of car­bo­hy­drate such as an en­ergy gel. Any­thing else you con­sume dur­ing a race will pro­vide no ad­di­tional per­for­mance ben­e­fit and will only in­crease the chances of a mishap such as gas­troin­testi­nal dis­tress.

Caf­feine en­hances triathlon per­for­mance, but you can get that from the same gels you use for sup­ple­men­tary car­bo­hy­drate. Con­sum­ing a lit­tle pro­tein dur­ing longer events may also boost per­for­mance, but you can get that from sports drinks and en­ergy gels that con­tain pro­tein or amino acids along with carbs. Ex­tra salt has no ef­fect on the risk of mus­cle cramp­ing, con­trary to pop­u­lar myth.

Pri­or­i­tize fast en­ergy

Sug­ars and other fast-act­ing car­bo­hy­drates are the most per­for­mance- en­hanc­ing nu­tri­ents you can con­sume in a triathlon of any length and should be the cen­tre­piece of your race fu­elling plan. This was clearly demon­strated by the re­sults of a study re­cently con­ducted at the Univer­sity of Bath, Eng­land. Ten re­cre­ational triath­letes com­pleted two sim­u­lated Olympic dis­tance triathlons. Dur­ing one test they con­sumed a 14.4 per cent car­bo­hy­drate sports drink on the bike. Dur­ing the other test they con­sumed an equal amount of f lavoured wa­ter. On av­er­age, the sub­jects com­pleted the bike leg four per cent faster and the run leg 4.3 per cent faster when they used the high- carb sports drink.

How much car­bo­hy­drate is enough? The more your body can ab­sorb, the bet­ter you will per­form. Re­search has shown that con­sum­ing carbs at a rate of 60 g per hour is more ef­fec­tive than con­sum­ing them at a rate of 30 g per hour, which in turn is more ef­fec­tive than 15 g per hour. The sub­jects in the English study I just de­scribed took in 108 g per hour. There are three key prin­ci­ples of race fu­elling that ap­ply to triathlons of all dis­tances. Let’s take a close look at each of them.


Lis­ten to your body

Sports nutri­tion­ists used to teach ath­letes to drink as much f luid as pos­si­ble dur­ing races. But it turned out this was bad ad­vice. The lat­est sci­ence in­di­cates that drink­ing more than thirst dic­tates dur­ing stren­u­ous ex­er­cise nei­ther en­hances per­for­mance nor im­proves ther­moreg­u­la­tion – but it does in­crease the risk of gas­troin­testi­nal dis­tress. So the new guide­line is to drink by feel dur­ing races.

Gen­er­ally, triath­letes can­not tol­er­ate as much fluid in­take while run­ning as they can dur­ing cy­cling, so al­ways be pre­pared to drink more on the bike. For­tu­nately, as the Univer­sity of Bath study showed, the ben­e­fits of drink­ing on the bike can carry over onto the run.

The same prin­ci­ple ap­plies to car­bo­hy­drate in­take. There is a high de­gree of in­di­vid­ual vari­a­tion in the amount of car­bo­hy­drate that ath­letes are able to ab­sorb dur­ing triathlons with­out ex­pe­ri­enc­ing GI dis­tress. You may need to ex­per­i­ment to de­ter­mine the max­i­mal rate of carb in­take that you can tol­er­ate. Race ex­pe­ri­ence is more use­ful than train­ing prac­tice in this re­gard. Be­cause rac­ing is more stress­ful than any work­out, many ath­letes find that they can­not tol­er­ate as much carb in­take in com­pe­ti­tion as they can in train­ing.

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