The countdown is on! With less than a month until race day it’s time to plan and practice your race day fueling. In order for everything to roll smoothly on course, now is the time to implement a race day nutrition plan. To give you confidence in putting this together, PURE Sports Nutrition co-founder and qualified Sports and Exercise Nutritionist, Marewa Sutherland, has some handy tips to help get the most out of your 70.3 Ironman.
Feed early & consistently Our bodies have adequate reserves for the first hour or so of exercise, however the quicker you begin to refuel the less likely fatigue will hit like a freight train, so start as soon as you come out of the water. Evenly spread your energy needs over each hour to ensure a consistent supply of fuel. Don’t rely on natural hunger and thirst cues! Set repeating 15-20 minute alarms on your watch to avoid race distractions and help cement this habit.
Carbohydrates will be your best friend There is so much misinformation around on carbohydrates and we need to put all this to one side when we are planning for your Ironman race. Carbs are essential for fueling your muscles (and brain which has a big part to play in getting you across the line) so if you're planning on exercising over 1 hour then these need to be factored in. How many carbohydrates to consume during a race differs for every person, but an easy rule of thumb is 0.8g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight, per hour of exercise (simply multiply your weight by 0.8). For example, a 70kg person would generally require 56g of carbohydrates per hour of exercise (70kg x 0.8). Once you have calculated your hourly carbohydrate requirements, then consider where you will source your carbohydrates from. This will be your sports drink and any food energy bars, gels or chomp like carbohydrate sources. To find out how many grams of carbohydrates are in each of your intended race day foods, look for the ‘Carbohydrates Total’ line on the nutritional panel and check the serving size.
Plan your drink stations PURE Electrolyte Hydration in Superfruit flavour will be on course at each drink station. A 250ml cup will contain 12.5g of carbohydrates, so if our example 70kg person passed two drink stations per hour I would encourage them to drink a minimum of 500ml (2 cups) to meet hydration requirements: 500ml PURE Electrolyte Hydration per hour = 25g carbohydrates consumed. Total hourly requirement for a 70kg athlete = 56g carbohydrates – 25g consumed at drink stations = 31g remaining. So the remaining 31g carbohydrates per hour needs to come from another carbohydrate source. This could be from a primal bar, a gel or chomp, sweets, or a banana, some dates or similar. Avoid foods that have more than 10g fats / 100g as these can be hard for your stomach to digest while exercising. For this distance you will also benefit from including protein you your food and potential your hydration choices, such as PURE Endurance Hydration which is 4 part electrolytes and 1 part Whey Protein - ideal for loading while on the cycling stage of the race
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate Hydration can be easily overlooked but has a strong link to fatigue. Research the course to find out the location of each drink station and work out the time it will take you to get between stations. If this is upwards of about 30 minutes then I suggest carrying hydration on you for these parts of the race. Fluid requirements vary a lot (temperature, size, gender, fitness level etc) but a general rule of thumb is 500ml – 750ml per hour. Regardless of weather, aim for a minimum of 500ml per hour. Note: It is particularly important to ensure you use hydration containing carbohydrates for energy but also electrolytes. You will be losing vital electrolytes in sweat and if these aren’t replaced (or you're drinking a truckload of plain water) you may be at risk of a very dangerous condition called Hyponatremia. Symptoms include confusion, nausea, headaches and even loss of consciousness, so be sure to replace electrolytes. PURE Electrolyte Hydration (available at all drink stations) contains both carbohydrates and all essential electrolytes (magnesium, sodium, potassium, calcium). If you are prone to excessive sweating, or race day looks like it will be particularly hot weather, consider topping up additional electrolytes with PURE Electrolyte Replacement Capsules.
Don’t be afraid to mix up your fuel Now don’t get me wrong, gels can be a super quick form of energy however there can sometimes be a thin line between easy energy and frequent toileting on course. There are other option such as carbohydrate containing chomps or even real food such as the primal bars. While food takes longer to digest, if you train yourself to eat small morsels regularly this can be a really effective way to remain energised.
TOP SPORTS NUTRITION TIPS: Take extra Always anticipate longer race times, and take extra fuel accordingly. I have met countless numbers of athletes who have rocketed through races only to hit that dreaded wall and have nothing left to eat or drink to get through it. Even a few sweets such as Ribena chews can save the day.
Breakfast is the first step to a successful day out After a long nights fasting it is essential to fuel up for the day ahead. If you tend to suffer from stomach issues plan to eat 2-3 hours before start time to give your body time to digest breakfast. Choose something that ideally contains carbohydrates but more importantly sits well with you. Practice different options and lengths of time before training long distance to make sure you have this nailed. Some of my athletes most common breakfast choices would be porridge, bircher muesli or Nutella, peanut butter and banana on fruit toast (race day treat?).
Practice in training All of the sports nutrition theory in the world will not get you through your race if you physically can’t tolerate eating & drinking while running (believe me I have learned this the hard way!). Use your long training sessions as a dress rehearsal for your race day nutrition plan. This means using the exact same brand of any gels/chomps/electrolytes/energy bars you plan to use on the day. As a result your body will know exactly what to expect and if something doesn’t work for you now there is time to change it. Remember to be patient, you do have to train your body to accept fuel while exercising so the earlier you start practicing your race day nutrition plan, the better.
Recover The golden rule is to get carbohydrates and protein on-board within 30 minutes of finishing your run. Even if this is your last event for the foreseeable future your body will thank you for this in the days to come. Try our PURE Whey Protein Concentrate or our PURE Exercise Recovery formulated to replenish carbohydrates, proteins, electrolytes and to restore hydration. Finally don’t forget to congratulate yourself on your fantastic efforts, we often forget to take the time to do this, just remember you are so awesome for getting out there - so go, you!!
Article by Marewa Sutherland
Marewa Sutherland is a qualified Sports & Exercise Nutritionist (BAppSc, University of Otago) and co-founder of PURE Sports Nutrition.
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