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IRONMAN nutrition strategy

Physical demand exists and the role of food is vital to achieve this goal

The average total caloric expenditure for an IRONMAN can range from 8,000 to 11,000 calories. Consuming this amount of calories is extremely difficult, but the athlete needs to eat and drink, not to loose too much calories and performance.  Nutrition for an Ironman influences, so you can be first or second, or you can or cannot reach the goal.

Carbohydrate Intake/Hydratation

  • Do not consume too much food as it can cause intestinal distress (diarrhea, abdominal pain).
  • Consume enough carbohydrates to provide additional fuel to the working skeletal muscles.
  • Keep the blood sugar (glucose) to the limit to avoid unnecessary wear during races and maintain certain performance.
  • Avoid weight loss during the trainings. Some of the lost weight is fat and carbohydrates (besides water that is stored, carbohydrate, or glycogen). The loss of more than 2 Kg of weight will definitely affect performance.
  • Optimize hydration including sodium, electrolytes and carbohydrates (sugary drinks).

All carbohydrates are ingested immediately and used by the muscle (oxidized). The carbohydrate source can be glucose, sucrose, maltodextrins or fructose. Consistency of carbohydrates: solid, liquid, gel, etc. 

What is sought is to increase the oxidation of muscle, and to achieve this it is recommended to consume a combination of glucose (or maltodextrin) and fructose (2 parts glucose and 1 fructose) as they are transported in two different ways in the small intestine and will eventually bring more profit.

Also, drinks containing glucose and fructose are better tolerated than solid foods, because they require less digestion. It is very easy to prepare these sports drinks, ingredients are maltodextrin, fructose, salt and water. You should calculate what should be your carbohydrate intake during the race in order to meet their needs and to not be weary. An easy way to calculate is 1 to 1.5 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of weight. For smaller triathlons, the recommended intake is between 30-60 grams per hour.

Electrolyte requirements

  • The consumption of sodium and other electrolytes is of great importance. Gels are good source of electrolytes because they provide approximately 200 mg per unit, depending on the type and flavor. A cyclist loses about 1 liter of sweat per hour equivalent to 1300 mg of sodium, 230 mg potassium and 12 mg of magnesium. For this reason, in some cases it is helpful to supplement with additional electrolytes (sodium or tablets or capsules of electrolytes).
  • Hyponatremia (drinking too much water) is a problem during an IRONMAN. It is normal to have lost water weight during the competition, but ideally would be minimal and properly hydrated. You can not take large amounts of water as they can cause hyponatremia. You should preferably be hydrated with sports drinks and gels and consume foods that allow you to replenish electrolytes and carbohydrates.

Swim time / Cycle time / Run time

  •  During the swim section try to avoid eat and drink, keep your energy to relax and swim well. If you feel weak, take a gel.
  • Remember that the first feed zone is during the bike section (because of distance, convenience and stability stomach).  It is the best time to eat solid food. The best option of solid food? Need to be a fast carbohydrates (sushi, sweet potato, white soft bread, rice bars…). Aim for 200-600 calories per hour on the bike based on your size, training and racing experience, and tolerance for food intake.
  • Carry most of your calories with you on the bike and get water and sports drink at aid stations.
  •  Rely more on drinks and less on solid food as the race progresses. If you tend to forget to eat and drink during your race, set your watch to beep every 20 minutes.
  •  When you leave the bike and go to the run section…remember that you have a long way to go and need to settle into a smooth cadence, it’s important to drink and eat well. You can take a gel or bar with some liquid calories such as a maltodextrin and an isotonic drink. The electrolytes are also important during the run section.
  •  Eat and drink as much as you feel like it, but try to get more liquid food during the run time. – - Don’t drink water as this may exacerbate hyponatremia.
  • When you finish the race, some electrolytes and amino acids are welcomed for a faster recovery.

Prepare your mind and stomach because IRONMAN is not easy, but if you eat and drink well you can HAVE FUN, for sure!

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