Have you made the big step of entering your first Ironman, and started thinking, what next?! Or, you may already have an Ironman event or a few under your belt, but you haven’t had the perfect race yet that you know you’re capable of. It’s natural to enter a race and start training enthusiastically, before you realise quickly that you will need a lot of nutrition to fuel it all! Enter our Ironman Nutrition Plan with the essential steps you need to fuel for training; from electrolytes to carbohydrates we have it all covered here.
Do you have a nutrition ‘game plan’?
It is really common that athletes will get a training plan first, and it can involve a lot of exercise! Anyone you talk to will also have some nutrition advice, many which are horror stories of what not to do! You might start to think more carefully about what you are eating, and feel pretty hungry too as your training load starts to increase.
Many athletes are trying to drop some unwanted kilos in the early stages of training, and so the balance between having energy energy (or ‘fuel’) for training and losing some excess weight can become a common juggle. On the other hand athletes with leaner body types might start to struggle keeping weight on.
This is where a nutrition plan comes in to play. Just as you set out your training day for the week, your nutrition plan can set you up for success in that training.
TRAINING NUTRITION MADE SIMPLE
Nutrition strategy is a hot topic amongst endurance athletes across all age groups and levels. Why? Because getting it right makes a massive difference to your performance and also in terms of your enjoyment. No one wants to be that athlete cramping on the side of the run leg, watching everyone race past. And to be completely honest, if you get your nutrition right this is pretty unlikely, and a mostly unnecessary position to be in.
ironman nutrition is personal
There are so many approaches and opinions to be found on the ‘what, when and how to eat’ for training and competition and it can quickly become overwhelming. Many athletes document their nutrition journeys and can provide invaluable insights, but you will soon learn that what works (and doesn’t work) for them doesn’t necessarily apply to you.
When it comes to a personal nutrition plan, there is no one size that fits all. What we do here at Bindi Nutrition is give you the key facts and principals that underpin sports nutrition, and then you can test them out in training to see what works for you. The final step is that we can help you then create a fool-proof race day nutrition plan.
Why do i need a nutrition plan?
Many athletes fall into the ‘eating is cheating’ trap, or significantly under-fuelling themselves to lose weight. Failing to fuel or hydrate correctly during exercise can lead to undesirable outcomes such as:
- Early onset fatigue (famously known as “hitting the wall” or “bonking”)
- Slowing down and sub-optimal performance
- Poor concentration and decision-making (this can trigger a downwards spiral in terms of pacing and ongoing nutrition choices during a race)
- Increased susceptibility to injury
- Gut disturbance or gastrointestinal distress (manifesting as dizziness, nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhoea)
- Suboptimal body composition
Training versus competition:
First, let’s note the distinction between nutrition for training and nutrition for competition.
Nutrition in the training phase aims to adapt your body’s systems such as muscles, heart, lungs and gut to the challenge required. Your nutrition needs to sustain your training load while your body adapts. During training, you are also training your gut to absorb carbohydrates and your body to utilise them.
Nutrition in the competition phase aims to eliminate any limiting factors to performance such as fatigue. The priority is to avoid dehydration and carbohydrate depletion.
Researchers have now well and truly established that consuming carbohydrates before, during and after exercise will improve your exercise capacity and optimise your endurance performance.
1. carbohydrates for peak performance
A large-scale study of endurance events found that in Ironman races, greater carbohydrate intakes were related with better finish times (3). We also know that the type of carbohydrate consumed makes a difference. Different carbohydrates use different transporters for absorption across the small intestine.
This is why using different types of carbohydrates simultaneously will utilise a greater number of absorption pathways. Not only can a greater quantity of carbohydrate be absorbed within a given time, but using a combination of carbohydrates has been shown to markedly improve power output over using a single source carbohydrate.
You can think of it like eating white bread compared with wholemeal – the white bread (single source CHO) can give you a quick hit of energy but can sit uncomfortably in your gut and then you don’t eat more (lowering your overall CHO intake). The wholemeal on the other hand gives smooth, even energy; is more comfortable to digest and you end up eating more of it comfortably, thereby improving your overall performance.
- KEY POINT: Before using any sports drink, do a simple ingredient check. Does it have a combination of Maltodextrin and Fructose? Then you may not get the performance benefit you need. If the first (and only) carbohydrate ingredient is dextrose or sucrose, then you know it won’t be the best on your gut or your performance. Bindi Natural Sports Hydration is a combined carbohydrate solution, specifically designed to improve your performance in training and on race day.
2. electrolytes – the magic of hydration
Dehydration can happen quickly in training, and can start to affect performance too. Even as little as 2% dehydration can affect your performance both physically and mentally. The mental effects of dehydration are really critical, as you can make poor decisions as simple as thinking you don’t need to eat, and can be as dangerous as clipping another cyclist’s wheel for example.
Electrolytes are what we sweat out during exercise and they have several roles in the body – they are are vital to nerve and muscle function, essentially allowing you to keep exercise without cramping or slowing down. Electrolytes also support the update of fluid into the body, and help you to retain it too. Adequate levels of sodium in a sports drink will also promotes carbohydrate and water retention in the gut, maintaining the correct distribution of fluid in the body.
Potassium and magnesium play vital roles in muscle contraction during exercise, and so their addition to a sports drink will help to minimise the risk of muscular cramping.
KEY POINT: Before using any sports drink, do a simple ingredient check. Does it have a combination of Sodium, Magnesium and Potassium? Without all three, you may not be replenishing all the electrolytes you need. Bindi Natural Sports Hydration has a Triple Electrolyte Advantage© designed specifically for harsh Australian conditions.
3. fluids – putting it all together
If you are training for an hour or less, just water is all you will need. You’ll require roughly 750ml of fluid per hour, however this volume can very a lot depending on your size, sweat rates, intensity of session and climate. This step takes practice to get it right.
For sessions longer than an hour, you will need to include a source of carbohydrates in your fluids, as your body can’t store enough energy to get you through on just water. Aim roughly for 60-90g of CHO per hour, which could be a bottle of Bindi Natural Sports Hydration plus a banana or gel for example.
A fluid intake plan should be drawn up to meet your fluid needs and practised in training. Do be careful – consuming a combination of solid foods and highly concentrated carbohydrate solutions (such as gels) can reduce your fluid absorption and exacerbate dehydration.
KEY POINT: Plan out your nutrition for training. Start with fluids – what volume do you need for training. Add carbs – make sure you get enough in your fluids, and add some solid food or gels if required. Electrolytes – make sure you’re getting enough (sometimes salt tablets are required as a supplement). Test it all out! Find out what works, then test it again!
How can you work out your own ‘winning formula’?
Your race day nutrition plan is not a practice run or the time to try something new. All the testing, trialing products and training your gut over time means you are ready to perform your best on race day. A race day plan should be very structured and specific to you, based on your training results.
There simply is no winning formula; a race day plan is the best training day plan that will maintain your hydration and carbohydrate levels as well as gut comfort.
try these products during training:
want to know more? read about recovery nutrition here >
dOWNLOAD OUR SIMPLE NUTRITION GUIDE HERE >
Sports Dietitians Australia. Fact sheet. Eating and drinking during exercise. Accessed March 2017 at: https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/fuelling-recovery/eating-drinking-exercise/
Burke, LM 2015. Re-examining high-fat diets for sports performance: Did we call the ‘nail in the coffin’ too soon? Sports Medicine, 45 (Suppl 1): S33 – S49. Accessed March 2017 at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26553488
Pfeiffer B et al. 2012. Nutritional intake and gastrointestinal problems during competitive endurance events. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 44: 344-51. Accessed March 2017 at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21775906
Jeukendrup A, 2014. A step towards personalized sports nutrition: Carbohydrate intake during exercise. Sports Medicine, 44 (Suppl. 1): S52-S33. Accessed March 2017 at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4008807/
Currell K, Jeukendrup A 2008. Superior endurance performance with ingestion of multiple transportable carbohydrates. Med Sci Sports Exerc., 40: 275-81. Accessed March 2017 at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18202575
Jeukendrup A, 2011. Nutrition for endurance sports: Marathon, triathlon, and road cycling. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29 (Suppl 1): S91 – S99. Accessed March 2017 at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02640414.2011.610348