A targeted sports nutrition strategy helps you reach your full potential during a triathlon. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy but there are a few factors to bear in mind that can help all of us. We asked PowerBar Expert Corinne Reinhard for her top sports nutrition tips.
Don't experiment with nutrition on the day of your event
Nutrition during exercise can influence a successful performance or result in drops in performance (in the worst case even a total performance termination). Race nutrition should, therefore, be planned and tested beforehand.
Find out which food and drinks will be available on the course. Try it out several times during training in order to understand what you need to consume, when you'll need it, and whether you need to bring your own additional food and drink. This can prevent unpleasant surprises.
Before the event
During the last hour before your race, it's beneficial to consume a carbohydrate-rich snack such as rice cakes, light raisin rolls or sports bars or gels. It's also important to keep taking on fluids.
In general, foods that are more difficult to digest (including foods that are rich in fat and high in fibre) should be avoided in the last few hours leading up to the race in order to avoid the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort. It’s therefore sensible to avoid meat-based snacks and fried foods.
During the event
During your event, the two most important things to keep on top of are carbohydrate and fluid intake.
A common nutrition mistake during exercise is to not have the right amount of carbohydrates at the right time. If you want to perform to your full potential, you must get your carbs right.
Carbohydrate intake is primarily dependent on the duration and intensity of the triathlon event. We recommend up to 60-90g per hour. A mix of glucose and fructose sources is the best way to get a very high carbohydrate intake on board (70-90g/hour). This combination can increase the carbohydrate delivery to the muscles and studies have shown that this can lead to an improvement in endurance exercise performance for efforts exceeding two and a half hours.
However, your personal tolerance is a deciding factor when it comes to the optimal amount of carbohydrates. If a high carbohydrate intake during exercise is required, you'll need to train your gut as well as your legs.
The gut is a highly adaptable organ so you should regularly integrate carbohydrates into your training routine to get used to them. This way, you'll improve the absorption capacity of carbohydrates in the gut and simultaneously minimise digestive issues.
Carbohydrates can come from various sources, such as solid foods and liquids, and should be individually determined according to personal preference and tolerance.
In order to create an individual carbohydrate strategy, you should familiarise yourself with the carbohydrate content of the foods and drinks you might want to consume during the race. For example, a medium sized banana has a carbohydrate content of around 25-30g, a gel is typically 20-30g per sachet, and 500mL of isotonic sports drink can deliver 25-30g of carbs. The exact carbohydrate content of foods can be found in the nutrition tables on the product packaging or search Google for any natural foods like fruit and nuts.
During the event, you also need to keep your fluids topped up. The actual fluid requirement during exercise depends on various factors such as weather conditions, individual rate of sweat loss and exercise intensity. If you have not tested an individual drinking strategy, the "15-minute rule" can help as rough guidance. Drink about 150ml of fluid every 15 minutes. Special isotonic carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks can enhance water absorption during longer endurance periods.
After the event
In addition to sufficient sleep and rest, targeted nutritional measures have a decisive influence on effective and rapid recovery: carbohydrates are important for replenishing depleted glycogen stores (energy stores in liver and muscles). In addition, proteins for muscle repair and maintenance as well as fluid and electrolytes (in particular sodium) are necessary for efficient compensation for a fluid deficit in the body.