Triathlon Nutrition – Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail (Part 1)

Nutrition for Triathlon

 Triathlon

Triathlon is fast increasing in popularity amongst those wanting to test themselves to their limits! I frequently work with motivated over-achieving executives who have decided to test their physical faculties to their maximum, to compliment the professional and mental challenges they already face! Fail to prepare for competition and you really are preparing to fail, as competing in this event will require a high intensity of exercise, combined with endurance. Sprint distance triathlons, the shortest (but possible the highest intensity if you perform maximally…)  consists of a 750 m swim, 20 km bike and 5 km run, compared to “Olympic distance”, which is  1.5 km, 40 km, and 10 km respectively. Ultra Distance or “Ironman” triathlon is a gruelling 3.8 km swim, followed by a  180 km ride, finishing with a full marathon!

 Pre-race Loading – Start 3 Days before the race

Carbohydrate (CHO), stored as glycogen, is the muscle’s primary energy source and is essential for intense activity. Before competition, the foremost priority is meeting CHO requirements and maximising the body’s stores of glycogen. These will vary depending on an athlete’s size (guidelines always given PER KILO), individual responses, and the specific demands of competition (specifically the distance to be covered).  

During exercise, the body can burn fat or carbohydrate for fuel (it will even burn protein of you neglect your intake of this macronutrient!), but high intensity performance such as that necessary to succeed in competition (80-100% maximum) can only be supported by anaerobic, carb(glycolysis)-dependent exercise. Fat oxidation just isn’t fast enough compared to high-octane carb burning!

To load for races, accompany your training taper with a gradual increase in the percentage of energy from carbs. As you are tapering you need to avoid increasing your calorie intake if you don’t want to get fat before the race, so these carbs ARE NOT ADDITIONAL, BUT DESIGNED TO REPLACE OTHER MACRONUTRIENTS. THIS IS PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT REGARDING FATS, AS COMBINING CARBS AND FATS WILL UNDERMINE THE EFFECTS OF CARB-LOADING!! Protein intake should also be slightly reduced during loading to make room for the extra carbs.

 

CHO (g/kg/day) Activity level
7-9g High level training/endurance/metabolic sessions (pre-race loading week)
10g+ Competition/Ultra-endurance – during the race. Eat all carb rich foods throughout race days. Recover with aminos and you will ensure adequate protein intake

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