Most people have an idea of what they are going to take during an Ironman competition for hydration and fueling. From our experience, you should have a base plan for both bike and run, but you also need to be flexible.
There will be times during the marathon when you just can't stomach another gel or another bottle of energy drink. At those points you should just go for whatever you feel like at that time to get you through. However, you do need to start with a plan and there's a good chance that the plan will get you through to the finish!
There is plenty of time for you to try the nutrition plan beforehand, so now is the ideal time to start planning and practicing.
The 3 Essentials: Fluid, salt & carbohydrates (bars/gels)
You need to work out how much and how often and whether you're taking your own or taking what's handed up. Here's a few key notes to take into account:
1. Are you going to use bars, gels or something else on the bike for fuel?
2. What are you going to use on the run?
3. Are you carrying your own or using what's on the course?
4. If it's the latter, do you know what's on the course?
5. How many bars/gels do you need to take per hour?
6. If you're using what's on the course, will you be able to get enough per hour?
7. How much fluid do you need to replace (how much do you need to drink per hour)?
8. How much salt will you lose and how are you replacing that?
Here's some simple tips for your planning:
1. Try bars and gels now and make a decision which one's you're going to use on the day for the cycle and the run. Gels are always better for the run as bars are more difficult to digest.
2. You should take 60g of carbohydrate per hour (1g per minute). Taking too much or not enough will both have a negative effect. Here's a simple trick, look at the nutritional content of your bar/gel and see how much carbohydrate there is in the bar/gel. You should then convert that figure to minutes and that's how often you should take the bar/gel. For example, if there's 45g of carbohydrate in a bar, you should take one every 45 minutes. If there's 25g of carbohydrate in your gel, you should take one every 25 minutes.
3. Average sweat rates can be between 750ml and 2 litres per hour, you need to work out your own sweat rate.
4. Salt loss will be 250-750mg, depending upon your own sweat rate, is there enough in your drinks/bars/gels or do you need to supplement with salt/electrolyte tablets?
1. Nutrition isn't a magic wand. One of the most common things you hear following a poor Ironman performance is "I got my nutrition wrong". If you find your body shutting down, your stomach not able to accept another gel and your energy draining away, it's not the nutrition which is to blame. As you become fatigued, your body WILL shut down and reject nutrition. Your training will be the prime reason for success. There is no magic nutrition formula which will give you a PB without the required training.
2. It's an Ironman race, it lasts one day and sometimes you need to accept you're not going to enjoy everything you eat. There are plenty of people who don't like the taste of gels, but they're easy to use and easily digested. Don't spend too much time searching for something which is super tasty and easily transported. It's not a visit to a 5 star restaurant, it's an Ironman. If you're not too keen on the taste, you might just need to get over it. Keep it as simple as possible and remember, it's your training which will ultimately make the difference.
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