Choose your distance for a step by step fueling guide, or read on to find out how triathlon nutrition can help you achieve your best time.
Carbohydrate, the fuel for racing
Carbohydrate is the high grade fuel for racing. Unfortunately your body can only store a limited amount of it (around 400 gram**) and that’s not enough to fuel a hard Triathlon. Blowing up or hitting the wall is when you have completely emptied your carbohydrate tank and that regularly happens during longer distances like an Ironman. Although less likely during Olympic and Sprint races, everyone will have experienced increasing levels of fatigue in the latter stages of shorter events. This is where your carbohydrate reserves, although not completely empty, are running low and your muscles are forced to rely more and more on fat as fuel.
Compare how strong you are in the early stages of a race when you have lots of carbohydrate left, to how tired you feel at the end of a hard race when your carbohydrate reserves are depleted. To fuel a fast triathlon and to even finish an Iron distance event, you need to consume extra carbohydrate during the race in the form of gels, drink and bars. Having lots of carbohydrate lets you race fast and far and it makes your event enjoyable.
2:1 fructose drinks
It may seem an obvious conclusion that the more carbohydrate you consume during an event the more high grade fuel your muscles will have available. BUT TAKE CARE! Research suggests that if you consume more than 60g per hour of the carbohydrate found in traditional* sport drinks, it will not be absorbed. This is the maximum amount of carbohydrate that can cross the wall of your intestine and get into your blood stream. To exceed the 60g limit, you have to switch to a new generation of sports drink based on a 2:1 fructose formulation.
The recommended intake for new generation 2:1 fructose drinks can be substantially higher, at up to 90g per hour. Read more on 2:1 Fructose.
How much difference?
The nutrition guidelines for an Iron distance can provide your working muscles with 1000g of carbohydrate (4000kcal) during an 11 hour race. Compare that to the 400g of carbohydrate typically stored in your body at the start of an event when you are fresh. The guidelines for Olympic, 70.3 and Iron distance will all provide your body with the maximum carbohydrate and optimum caffeine intake, in order to maximise your performance. And remember, if you cannot consume the full amount shown, then consuming 80g of carbohydrate per hour is better than 60g and that’s better than 40g. The general rule is: the more carbohydrate you can consume (up to a maximum of 90g per hour), the stronger and faster you can go.
Caffeine and performance
A moderate dose of caffeine can improve triathlon performance in it’s own right. It stimulates the body’s nervous system, making you more alert, increasing concentration and reducing the feeling of effort. Research indicates that caffeine, when taken in moderation, does not significantly add to dehydration during an event.
High5 Nutrition Guides
Applying the latest scientific knowledge, High5 has developed step-by-step nutrition guides for each sport, race distance (Sprint, Olympic, 70.3 and Iron), race day weather and athlete body-weight. The triathlon nutrition guides are practical, easy to follow and ensure the optimum performance boosting intake of carbohydrate and caffeine. If you follow these guides you will race substantially faster and further.
* For the purpose of this discussion, a traditional energy or sports drink containing a source of carbohydrate that breaks down to glucose and contains no or little fructose.
** Based on a 75kg athlete when fresh. With carbo’ loading this figure may be raised to 600g or more