Fuelling for a triathlon can seem daunting. However, if you take the time during your training block to understand your body’s nutrition requirements, fuelling during your race will be a breeze. Here are some basic fuelling tips for a triathlete.
For triathlon distances up to 70.3, an energy gel with 100-120 calories, like the Unived Gel, is recommended for the swim leg. For longer distances, a gel with more calories is recommended, like the Unived Elite Gel. You should take the energy gel 15-20 min before the start of the race. If you are used to caffeine, take a caffeinated one for enhanced alertness. Since you’ll be swimming continuously throughout the swim leg, you need enough energy at the start to carry you through.
You need to take care of two things during the cycling leg: calories and hydration. Not taking enough calories and drinking sufficient fluids during this leg, will lead to an unforgiving running leg. You may even start feel it during the cycling leg itself. Depending on the humidity level, you need to drink enough water to combat dehydration. For example, during triathlon races with high levels of humidity (e.g. Goa, Colombo or most Southeast Asian 70.3 races) consume about 0.75-1L of fluid per hour. Fluids can be in the form of a energy drink, like the Unived Elite Drink Mix or water. For cooler races, you may drink less. This also varies depending upon your sweat rate. Hence, you should have a clear idea from your training rides how much you sweat. Higher sweat rates, require more fluids and electrolytes. You can carry some salt capsules, especially on a humid course, and take one capsule every 45-60 min.
Not only are fluids important, but also calories. During this leg, aim to consume about 350-450 calories per hour. This can be in the form of energy drink, electrolyte mix, energy gels, energy bars or fruits. For example, you can carry two bottles of energy/electrolyte mix and pick another one from the aid station (1*190 Kcal/hr), have an energy gel every 30-40 min (2*110Kcal/hr), and maybe a banana or a bit of energy bar every hour to get some solid food.
There are usually plenty of aid stations along the running course (1 every 1.6-2km). The aid stations normally have 4 types of drinks: water, electrolyte, energy drink and cola. As a rule of thumb, take a sip of any of these at every aid station. Alternate between water and electrolyte, and have the energy drink and cola whenever you need that extra boost. To make sure you get enough calories during the run, since they might not provide energy gels or the gels you’re comfortable having, you should carry your own energy gel. Carry between 2-4 gels in T2 and grab them when you start your run. Take a gel every 30-40 min, you can opt to consume a gel in parts throughout the run. However, make sure you fuel enough and consume plenty of calories. You may also want to carry salt caps, especially if you are a heavy sweater, and take one every hour. In case you feel hungry, grab fruit from the aid stations, but avoid solid food if you haven’t trained with it. Stick to your nutrition plan and race well.
Having a good recovery mix post your race, is as important as consuming enough gels during the race. In order to replenish your muscle glycogen stores, you need to opt for a recovery mix with a 4:1 carbohydrates to protein ratio, like the Unived Elite Recovery Mix. Remember to keep hydrating after your race as well with water/electrolyte/energy drinks.
Okay, now take a picture with your medal and boast about it on social media. 🙂
Written in collaboration with Unived Athlete Nihal Baig.