There are various approaches to fueling your body for an Ironman. We’ve tried them all. From consuming solid foods, liquid meal replacements, taking GasX, using chocolate bars, gummy bears, gels, protein drinks, chicken soup WITH noodles. We’ve tried it all.
Finally, in our last two Ironman events we’ve settled on something that really works for us. Perhaps with time we’ll have to adjust again, but right now we’re golden. Keeping in mind, however, that we’re finishing the event in 8.5-9.5 hours. We’d be interested to hear what others are doing, perhaps those of you looking at the 12-17hr range. That would be a long time to use liquid nutrition so perhaps you find a bit of solid food is what you need. Let us know in the comments!
Regardless of what you ‘eat’ during your race day, there are still some important points to keep in mind.
-Keep track of the calories you put down. 500 calories per hour would be a lot, even for a very large athlete. The lighter you are, the less you’ll need.
-Make sure you’re not taking in too many calories relative to the amount of plain water you consume. Sports drinks have calories too, so be careful what you use to ‘wash down’ your gels.
-Depending on your effort level for the day, you don’t need to take in any fat or protein. This may be different for the 12hr + athlete. In order for you body to process fat and protein into usable calories while exercising you have to be going quite easy. Stick to Carbohydrates (sugars) while putting out a bit of effort.
Anyway, here’s what we do, and it works very well for us.
Bowl of cereal – rice/corn based cereal with banana
150 Calories worth of Ultragen
…wish I could have ate more, but I was NOT hungry. Nervous energy and early mornings!!
Had about 100 calories of Ultragen while running to my bike. Ultragen has a small amount of fat and protein in it. Used it while HR was low and was starting to ease into the day.
On the bike:
-Aimed for 400 calories per hour
-1350 calories of EFS liquid shot (carried 1600 with me) in a water bottle that stayed with me the entire day. Liquid Shot is basically a gel, but with no gelling agent. This makes it thinner, easier to swallow, and easier to digest.
-650 calories of EFS Drink (started with 2 bottles of 200 cal, picked up 2 more at special needs, had to lose one for water when I started feeling like caloric intake was too high).
-Lots of water, can’t even estimate how many bottles I went through.
-2 salt caps, but it was a cool day and didn’t need it given the electrolyte content of the EFS drink and EFS liquid shot. Had 10 pills with me, which I would take on a hot day.
-No solids, no fats, no proteins. Had I needed something solid I would have grabbed a banana from an aid station.
-Grabbed a couple sips of Gatorade for a change of flavor, but never kept a bottle with me on the bike.
On the run:
-600 calories of EFS liquid shot. I carried one 400 calorie flask, sipping at every aid station. Then picked up a new flask at the half way special needs station. Did not empty either flask.
-Lots of coke, at least 15 cups, not all of which made it in my mouth.
-2 big swigs of EFS drink from a frozen bottle with ‘Pre Race’ mixed in at special needs. Pre-Race is similar to Red Bull.
-Water: at least double the amount of coke. Maybe went a bit overboard here, peed three times on the run, clear each time. Would have been great if it were a hot day!
-4 Salt stick caps, carried 13 with me
So there you go. All liquid calories, all day. Never felt hungry and stayed strong throughout. We’re working on a better morning breakfast!! Products like Coconut Oil, Agave Nectar, Dark Chocolate are going to find their way in next time.
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