Ironman Nutrition Tips

16 October 2015

A 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run. While that may sound like many people's idea of torture, it's actually what makes up an Ironman triathlon. For many people who want to push themselves to the limit, this is the ultimate test of endurance. Yet with such extreme exertion, nutrition is not only important but crucial to your safety.

No matter how fit you are or how hard you've trained, the extreme nature of an Ironman will leave you bereft of energy unless you refuel on the go. If you want to make it over the finish line you should make nutrition a priority.

Fuelling Your Body

Your body uses two main forms of fuel when you're exercising in order to feed the muscles - fats and carbohydrates. Fat, though, is only broken down slowly, and is an ineffective source of fuel unless you are going very slowly. Therefore, if you're competing in a race such as an Ironman triathlon carbohydrate is going to be the primary fuel your body relies upon.

The issue with carbohydrate is that the body can only store a limited amount in the muscles as glycogen, even when you load up before your race. Typically you'll only have at the most a couple of hours' worth of glycogen stored.  Therefore, you're going to have to top up your energy levels if you want to keep performing throughout the race and finish in a good time (or finish at all!) 

Before the Race

During your training you should be eating a balanced diet full of proteins, healthy fats and especially carbohydrates. You should start to taper off your training intensity and also the calories in your diet a few weeks before the race though, so your body has enough time to reach peak condition come race day.

The week before the race you should be cutting down severely on training and also the amount of food you're eating. The day before the race you should load up on both sodium and carbohydrates, and a few hours before the race you should have a carbohydrate-rich breakfast, but nothing too heavy.

During the Race

To keep your energy up, you're going to have to maintain energy levels and therefore carbohydrate is needed. This can come in many forms, but these days the preferred method is using a range of energy products, such as drinks, bars, gels and chews.

When the body is focusing on keeping your arms and legs pumping rather than your digestion, these simple sugars are often all your body can manage to digest. When people try anything more substantial, often they will throw it back up. Over the course of a several-hour race you will need to top up energy levels at least every hour, as well as sipping water or a sports drink with electrolytes little and often.

Bars, gels and chews especially allow you to carry energy in a compact form. One of the leading brands on the market is Honey Stinger, which differs from many brands due to the fact that it uses predominantly organic ingredients to create honey-based energy products. With a range of bars, gels and chews, there's something for everyone, and they are ideal for the health-conscious athletes who care what they're putting into their body. 

After the Race

Once you're done and you've (hopefully) crossed the finish line, your body is going to need to refuel in order to recover properly. Give it carbohydrates, plus some protein to help rebuild damaged muscle tissue.

Once you've had more practice you'll be able to know what works best for you, so shop the range of essential nutrition products from Think Sport  and get out there and give it a go!