With one Ironman event to his name, and with that one win, Alistair Brownlee secured his place at the prestigious Kona World Championships back in June at the Cork IM. We caught up with him in Kona to talk about how his recent learnings will help shape his nutrition strategy for race day.

Pre-Kona Training Camp

In the lead up to Kona, Alistair has spent the past 3 weeks in Arizona putting in a big block of Ironman specific training. The aim of the camp was to test Alistair’s body in the heat, over longer distances and to take these learnings to get his nutrition strategy dialled for race day.

“The camp was a great opportunity to work out what my race nutrition would look like. Looking at what I can carry on the bike for the early part of the race and then again what I can take in from the aid station to fills these.”

Preparation is key when it comes to an event like an Ironman, and training is the time in which you can trial everything, especially nutrition. Trialling what fuel you are going to take on is important, but also looking at how and when you’re going to consume it.

“I spent a lot of time in Arizona working on my drinking whilst running. Up until this point I’ve never really drunk in a running session, not really had the need. So I spent a lot of time drinking during runs, particularly longer runs in the heat where I was having bits to drink every mile or so, to get used to the frequency and how that works for my stomach”

Over long periods of time, what you put into your body can really start to have a negative affect if you don’t work out what is right for you. Alistair will be using the OTE Energy Drink in Kona, as not only does it supply 40g of carbohydrates, much needed electrolytes but also is designed to be pH neutral. This means it is kind on the stomach and should help to avoid an acidic environment forming in the stomach, that can often lead to discomfort.

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Pre Race Nutrition

What you do with your nutrition in the days leading up to the event can impact your performance on the big day. Two key areas to consider are  your glycogen stores and hydration.

“It’s really important to make sure you are fully hydrated to start with, especially considering the heat in Kona. I will make sure I drink quite a bit more than usual and will use OTE Hydro Tabs to make sure I get plenty of electrolytes on board.”

Being as little as 2% dehydrated can negatively affect sporting performance, therefore if you get on the start line of an event and you’re dehydrated, you’re already putting yourself at a disadvantage.

“My diet won’t change this week, I’ll just be doing less training and this will allow me to top up my glycogen stores and make sure that is maximised. I have plenty of carbohydrates in my diet that will allow for this.”

The idea of eating more to ‘carb load’ is pretty old school now. Athletes use a taper in their training, where the low level of activity allows for your body to start storing the carbohydrates it would ordinarily use in training.

“The day of the race I’ll have a light breakfast, some porridge and toast; just the things I would usually have. I’ll also have a bottle with OTE Hydro Tab in. Closer to the race I’ll have an OTE Anytime Bar for the last top up of carbs but I don’t want anything too high in sugar content before a race.”

Familiarity before a big race is key. Stick to foods you know and trust, don’t start changing things that may be influenced by where you’re staying. If needs be, take your own food with you to help eliminate any last minute stresses.

Lemon & Lime Energy Gel

Lemon & Lime

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In Race Nutrition

Taking on nutrition during the swim is not possible for the athletes, so Alistair’s fuelling strategy starts from as soon as he exits the swim and reaches transition one.

“Once out the swim I’ll aim to have some drink as I go through transition, that will be OTE Energy Drink in Lemon & Lime flavour. That’ll be as cold as I can get it, just so it’s cold fluid that I’m getting in whilst I get the chance. Going out onto the bike, I’ll have a bottle behind my saddle and at the front, both with OTE Energy Drink . I’ll have my aero bottle with 12 Lemon & Lime Gels emptied in it. Each gel gives you 20g of carbs, so i’ll try and take on 3 of those per hour which is 60g and can top up the extra 20-40g of carbs from the energy drink. The gels aren’t caffeinated, I’ll only have caffeine as an option going onto the run, I don’t like to have too much of it.”

“I’ll be aiming to go through around 2 litres of fluid per hour, so in that first 45 minutes I’ll have drunk through both my on bike bottles and I’ll be picking up water where I can from aid stations. I’ll also have some Anytime Bars chopped up into smaller pieces in my nutrition box on my top tube, I’ll probably have 2-3 bars worth of that. Not sure how much of it I will eat but hopefully the race will be a bit more gentle in the first half and we’ll get chance to eat a bit more of the solid fuel. So I’ve got the option of the bars and the option of the gels and that will be plenty in terms of carbohydrates to get me through the bike which is probably in the region of 300-400g of carbs . I find that when I’m going quite hard I have a very high burn rate of carbs so I can almost consume anything, but when I’m not going so hard, like during an Ironman, I’ve got to be a bit more careful with what I eat.”

“Going out onto the run again, I’ll have a bottle in my transition bag that I’ll try to keep cool, I’ll try take that out on to the first part of the run with me. That bottle will again have Lemon & Lime Energy Drink in it. I’ll have two gels in my nutrition bag, plus another cold bottle and two gels in the special needs. They will be attached to the new OTE Yorkshire legends bottle; the bright fluro yellow colour makes them easy to spot in the aid station. Then every mile I’ll be picking up what’s on course so ice and mostly water.”

As you can see from Alistair’s thorough plan, he is preparing for all eventualities. Things like two options of fuel for on the bike to suit how he feels at that moment, extra gels for if nutrition gets dropped. All these little details helps to reduce panic if things don’t go exactly to plan.

The final Countdown

The hard work has been done and now it’s just a waiting game before race day on Saturday. Looking after yourself in this period is really important to help get to the start line as fresh as possible. Lots of rest, quality sleep, eating well, massage and plenty of stretching will be the few things on Alistair’s agenda in this final week.

“Im happy with how my body feels, I don’t feel too tired, feel pretty fresh.  So now it’s time to just relax and enjoy getting my feet up as you don’t have much opportunity to do that as a professional athlete.”


For more insight into Alistair’s journey to Kona check out our mini documentary series here.

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