If you are competing in an Ironman distance event your priority is to have a nutrition plan, so you have a fuel store to get you round the course feeling strong throughout. The only way you can come up with a plan is to start now and keep testing what works for you. To leave your plan to the last couple of weeks or worse, a couple of days before the race may result in an extremely tougher day than you were anticipating or worse, not completing.
By carb loading a few days before the Ironman, your body can store around two thousand carbohydrate calories in the form of muscle and liver glycogen and glucose in your bloodstream. However, while you’re asleep the night before your race your body burns carbohydrate, so breakfast is a time to top up your stores. Now is the time to practice your pre-exercise breakfast routine before your long Sunday rides or other long training sessions, so that you know what works for you. Remember, what works for one person may not be ideal for you.
If I am doing a long bike ride (60 – 100 miles) I will have a carb dominated tea the night before, which gives me a carb store. In the morning, I will have a pint of water twenty minutes before eating which gives me a fluid base, as well as helping me empty my bowel before setting off. Then an hour before going out on my bike I will have a bowl of porridge with a sliced up banana with a handful of sultanas and full fat milk and a black coffee. If I am going further I will add a couple of slices of white bread toast with peanut butter. Over the years this has suited my stomach and when I competing in an Ironman or a 70.3 event I will have a banana and some water before entering the water.
This carbohydrate store is usually enough to fuel me for between sixty to ninety minutes before I need to start fuelling with a carb drink within the first fifteen minutes on the bike. From then on I aim to get 70 – 90 grams of carbs in my body every hour with 240 -280 calories. For me this means eating and drinking every twenty minutes. The tough part is to continue eating and drinking on the bike after 4 hours. This is something you will need to train your body to do on long Sportive cycle events over eighty miles. I stop eating solids an hour before the bike leg and up my carb drinking instead but you will have to see what works for you.
What do I drink and eat on the bike? My present nutrition plan looks like this – I will use enough tailwind for the whole bike distance with a bottle on the special needs table to collect if I need to – 6 x 2 scoops an hour in the bottle (200 calories an hour with 50 grams of carbs) supplemented with half a Cliff bar (70 calories 40 grams of carbs)
Once off the bike you will need to continue with your nutrition plan on the run. For me it is a mix of water, electrolyte drink, non – caffeine gels, slice bananas – How much will depend on weather conditions, as well as how I feel.
Once over the finishing line remember to refuel immediately with plenty of carbs, protein and fluids.