We've paid our entry fee, trained hard and bought all the gear but the thing that often lets people down is fuelling correctly on race day. Whether you are looking to smash out a PB, pushing your body to its limits or are just looking to get round and survive. Taking on board the right fuel, at the right time can not only help you have a better run but it can also help you feel better during and after your big race.
Our guide is focussed around our products, a tried and tested system that is used by European and World class athletes. They are not 'sponsored' athletes receiving free products, these are some of the world's best who purchase the system to get the very best out of their races so please read on and if you have any questions please feel free to get in touch.
In the build up
Eat as you normally would (avoiding processed and fast food), ideally balanced meals based around fresh food you prepare yourself and get into the habit of sipping water throughout the day to ensure you are fully hydrated.
In the days prior to an Olympic Distance it’s essential to ensure your system is as prepared as it can be, so our users often drink a Night Fuel in the evenings prior to an event as this helps to feed and nourish your muscles while you’re asleep and in your most restorative state.
Sipping an energy fuel the day before can also help with this process and if you have travelled, especially abroad then the vitamins and minerals in the energy fuel help to replenish your fatigued state. If you fly, drink plenty of water while you’re in the air to avoid dehydration.
Morning of the event
Avoid a ‘heavy on the stomach’ and large breakfast - we mean fry ups, too large a bowl of porridge etc. Having too much in your stomach is not going to help you when you start to swim. Go for a calorific but easy to absorb breakfast like Morning Fuel and supplement this with a banana and/or some seeds. Or simply have a FeelGoodBar as they are energy dense yet light on the stomach and are very nutritious.
Sip an energy fuel just after breakfast and on the way to the start line too. The alternative is to have a Sports Jelly 15 minutes before the swim starts.
On the Bike (T1)
Preparation is key. Fuelling on the bike is crucial as to how well your run will go, you need to ensure you keep on top of hydration and fuelling, ensuring your glycogen levels are topped up. Fuelling on the bike is also less stress on your digestive system so you can take on board more calories than when running.
There’s lots of info out there about maximising carbohydrate intake up to 90g per hour but you have to have a well trained stomach and be vigilant as to intake, as too much fructose for example will end in a gurgling pit of misery. Your digestive and energy system also has to work hard to deliver energy in this way and when you’re working muscles and organs are crying out for blood flow etc on a longer event your body can simply start to shut your stomach down and that is when nausea, sickness and diarrhea can ruin your race.
We always suggest that you aim for around 50g to 70g - roughly between 200 to 300 kcal an hour as a balance, on occasion you will go a little over and other times under. Ultimately you can’t absorb more than 250 kcal an hour so if you keep adding in more than this you are going to get issues…
For the bike we’d prepare our FeelGoodBars (easy to eat and digestible) in advance by chopping up them into four pieces, or you can just eat them in four, taking a couple of mouthfuls at a time. I'd suggest one to two pieces an hour along with sipping Energy Fuel and a Sports Jelly as each slice would equate to roughly 10g carbs / 45kcal. So for example on the bike;
1 sachet, 750ml Energy Fuel per 1 1/2 hours = 26g carbs per hour
2 bites/slices of bar = 20g carbs per hour
1 Sports Jelly = 20g per hour
Little and often of each, don't overload the stomach, just keep it ticking over and replenishing glycogen.
The Energy Fuel has a balanced carbohydrate mix to ensure you rapidly replenish glycogen while delivering a sustained energy release. Added minerals (electrolytes), vitamins and amino acid ensures that your muscles are replenished and fuelled for all types of effort and distance.
The Sports Jellies are refreshing, easy on the stomach and contain electrolytes and unlike other gels you can rely on these to deliver your fast acting energy without worry of stomach issues or the need to drink lots of fluid with them, even on a hot day. You can also exclusively fuel on these if you find it hard on take on solids.
On the Run (T2)
In the transition have a Sports Jelly or the last few mouthfuls of your energy fuel.
Then within 15 to 20 minutes of the start of your run have a Sports Jelly, this doesn’t need to be nailed in one. The Sports Jellies are easy to carry as they don’t dribble everywhere so you can have two or three mouthfuls over a 15 to 20 minute period.
We’d suggest a jelly every 30 to 45 minutes, depending on effort and how well adapted you are as to your fuelling. If you have been able to train to heart rate in your training it may be that you have been able to increase your bodies ability to convert fat stores to energy. Some of us are naturally better than others at this, but long training runs at a low heart rate can help naturally switch your body maximising its own energy system on top of the need to take on board readily available carbohydrate.
When you are on the run, this is when your stomach in particular in under its most stress. Not only are your muscles pulling and pushing around your stomach but your food and fluids and jiggling around and to top it all off there is an internal battle for blood flow between your vital organs, working muscles and stomach. The heat can add in an extra dimension with blood flow also being diverted to help cool the body. Accept that on a long distance even there may be times you feel uncomfortable, sick even. If that is the case, slow down, sip water and allow your system to balance itself again.
Yes you may want to collapse, chat to other competitors, loved ones etc but getting a Recovery Fuel in at this point will not only help you feel better sooner, it will also help offset DOM’s the next day and that painful walk down the stairs may just be that little bit easier!
Good luck and have fun and let us know how you get on with your next event.
If you’re thinking of stepping up in distance, have a look at our Iron Man Nutrition Strategy