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Fueling Up for A Triathlon

Proper Fueling for the Long Course Triathalon

Race Week (7 days prior to the race)

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Aim at drinking your body weight in fluid ounces; note that fluid intake does not have to be solely water, but shouldn’t originate from such water stripping beverages as coffee ( caffeine ) and soda ( carbonation / caffeine ).

• Due to a taper in training and consequent increase in daily energy expenditure, your energy needs are lower in the week prior to race day. Aim at an energy intake of about 18 calories per pound of body weight, consuming small, frequent meals through out the day. Note that you shouldn’t gain more than 2% of your body weight.

• Focus on more carbohydrates. In the final 3 days prior to race day, increase your portions of carbohydrates (grains, fruits, vegetables) from 2/3 to your plate. Aim at a daily carbohydrate intake of 3.2 grams per pound of body weight.

• Don’t neglect protein. Remember that adequate protein intake will help build up that amino acid pool, allowing for regeneration of healthy cells and tissue. This pool will become in especially relevant factor towards the end of the race and will also help with the recovery from the race. Aim at .55 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

• Remember your fats. Fats become a less important nutrient as you gear up for race day. Aim at about .35 grams per pound of body weight.

The Day Before The Race

• Really push the fluids, especially at each meal or snack.

• Your largest meal of the day should be lunch (or an early dinner) and it should consist of primarily carbohydrates. Excessive fat or calorie intake in the evening can slow digestion, causing feelings of nausea in the morning and thereby compromising the pre race meal.

• Do not eat anything out of the norm. Try to stick to foods your familiar with, as you don’t want to develop symptoms from a food allergy or intolerance leading up to the race day!

Race Day Morning

• The pre race meal is critical for stocking liver glycogen stores and maintaining optimal blood sugars during the initial stages of the race.

• For every hour prior to the race start, consume approximately 50 grams of low to moderate glycemic carbohydrates (whole grain bagel, fruit, yogurt). Foods that are high in fat protein should be limited due to their slow digestion rate. A sample pre race meal is; 1 cup of low fat vanilla yogurt mixed with 3 table spoons of wheat germ, cup blueberries washed down with 1 cup apple juice.

• To calm an unsettled nervous stomach, try sipping on liquid carbohydrates such as carnation instant breakfasts or mild fruit juices. You can also try getting up earlier and nibbling through out the morning rather than having 1 large meal. Note that most sports drinks have a high glycemic value and therefore, should not be the soul source of pre race carbohydrates consumed.

• Give your self adequate time to digest your breakfast. Remember to eat familiar foods and stick with a time schedule that has worked in the past.

• Don’t forget to hydrate. At the onset of thirst performance is reduced by 15%. Keep your urine pale yellow to clear by pushing the fluids upon your wake up call. About an hour prior to race start, consume approximately 16 ounces of a sports drink. The sodium in the sports drink will help retain the water (go to the Gatorade sports science institute for more information).

AND YOU’RE OFF…

Swim Segment

• Because urinating is not a problem in this segment, hydrate with a sports drink right up to the start of the race.

• Coming out of the water into the bike transition area, make sure you have a water bottle full of a sports drink to sip as you prepare for the bike segment.

Bike Segment

• Avoid eating too many solid and or liquid carbohydrates early in the bike segment. Your body will respond negatively to this by redirecting blood flow to your stomach to aid in digestion rather than to your working muscles causing a dead or heavy leg syndrome.

• The goal on the bike is to replace approximately 30-50% of the calories you burn. Most tri athletes consume 300 to 600 calories after the first hour on the bike.

• A 4:1 ratio of a high glycemic carbohydrate to protein significantly increases glucose utilization during exercise and may help enhance endurance performance. Use the following equation to determine your hourly needs during both the bike and run portion.

High Glycemic Index Carbohydrate: .45-.65 grams per pound of body weight. Protein: .11-.16 grams per pound of body weight.

• Note that most energy bars provide the touted 4:1 ratio. Accelerade is a sports drink that provides the 4:1 ratio. If you like the energy gels or other not protein containing sports drinks, simply add 1 table spoon of protein powder for every 25-30 grams of carbohydrate.

• Be aggressive with fluids. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends consuming 5-12 ounces of a sports drink every 15-20 minutes set your watch to beep as a reminder.

• Don’t neglect any of the following electrolytes, all of which are essential for normal muscle and cardiac function: sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium. The p erformance recommended d aily i ntake ( PDI ) for Sodium is 1500-4500 milligrams, Potassium 2500-4000 milligrams, Magnesium 400-800 milligrams and Calcium 1200-2600 milligrams. Tri athletes should aim at an hourly intake of 100-300 milligrams of sodium, 50-100 milligrams potassium, 50-75 milligrams magnesium, 100-150 milligrams calcium.

• At the run transition area, have a sports drink ready to drink along with a power bar.

Run Segment

• Nibble on a power bar and wash it down with a sports drink as you leave the transition area.

• Hourly carbohydrate and protein needs remain the same during the run. Many athletes carry a fuel belt that contains either a sports drink or energy gel.

• Don’t forget about the fluids as dehydration is the #1 performance inhibitor among endurance athletes. Continue to consume 5-12 ounces of a sports drink every 15-20 minutes.

• Stick to the routine! Use what has worked for you during training.

The Finish Line…

• Congratulations! You have completed the ultra endurance race.

• To enhance recovery from your ultra endurance accomplishment, consume the following 4:1 ration of carbohydrates to protein;

Within 30 Minutes of Finishing

High glycemic carbohydrate: .5 grams per pound of body weight.

Protein: .125 grams per pound of body weight.

• Re-hydrate with a sports drink containing electrolytes.

• Note that glycogen repletion occurs at a rate of 5-7% per hour so it is important to continue eating carbohydrates – about 50-75 grams – every 2-3 hours until your total carbohydrate intake reaches approximately 500 grams total.

• Listen to your body and fulfill any cravings you have. Kim Brown RD