Triathlon Fuelling Guide

OTE Sports co-founder Pete Slater has put this information together to help you keep fuelled and hydrated during your triathlon event.  Pete has been competing in triathlon from Sprint distance to Ironman for over 25 years and has competed in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii on 3 occasions.

The Critical nutrition factors

Adopting a nutritional strategy that helps to optimize your energy supply and hydration is probably the most effective way to improve your sports performance.  Energy supply and hydration have an immediate effect on sports performance.  As little as a 2% loss in body weight through dehydration can decrease performance by up to 20%, and once carbohydrate energy is used up performance decreases even more significantly.

Pre Event Feeding

The body provides energy by burning fats, carbohydrates and some proteins. Carbohydrate has a lower oxygen cost than fat, more energy can be produced with a given amount of oxygen using carbohydrate as a fuel rather than fat. The efficient use of fat is also dependent upon the availability of carbohydrate, it is often said that “fat burns in the flame of carbohydrate”. The critical factors for a good and more enjoyable sports performance will be replenishing carbohydrate and ensuring you remain hydrated. You just can’t keep with the pace if you rely on fat store alone.

The conventional advice is that the pre event meal should be taken 2 – 3 hours before competing.  It should be relatively light but high in carbohydrate and low in fat.  OTE Energy Drink can be useful additions to the pre event meal to increase the carbohydrate content without increasing the bulkiness of the meal.  Eating anything within an hour before an event has previously been considered detrimental to performance due to the possible insulin response.  However, there is evidence that supports taking a small amount of carbohydrate 5 to 10 minutes before competition may be beneficial to improving sports performance.  OTE Energy Gels contain 20.5g of carbohydrate and are ideal to take 5 to 10 minutes before competition.  People’s response to pre-event feeding varies; we recommend you practice in training the strategy you intend to use during competition.

Distance affects Fuelling strategy

Nutrition advice and product usage during triathlon events will vary considerably depending on the type and distance of the event you are competing in.  Climate and the intensity you intend to race at will also have a significant effect on your hydration and fuelling strategy during the event.

The basic advice of supplementing 60-90g of carbohydrate per hour still remains true and as a rule of thumb is what you should be aiming to achieve in terms of carbohydrate intake.  Carbohydrate should be taken alongside enough fluid as necessary to ensure you remain hydrated throughout the duration of the event.  Whether you are competing in a sprint triathlon or Ironman, fluid and carbohydrate intake will also vary depending on weather conditions.  We recommended you sip your energy/hydration drink at regular intervals rather than by taking large mouthfuls less frequently. As with any endurance event it is important to ensure you are carbohydrate loaded and suitably hydrated in the days leading up to the event.

Rule Number 1: Always practice in training what you intend to do on race day and be careful not to over eat or drink during the bike section

Sprint Distance Triathlon

Ensure you consume your pre-race meal 2 to 3 hours before the event and aim to consume 150g to 200g of carbohydrate in this meal.  Continue to sip your OTE Energy Drink with balanced electrolytes (43g per 500ml) throughout your warm up and race preparation.  This will help you keep your carbohydrate levels topped up and help you remain hydrated.  Take an OTE Energy Gel 5 to 10 minutes before the start of the race.  During the bike section carry a bottle of OTE Energy Drink (500ml) and aim to drink about 250ml.  This should provide enough energy to see you through the 5Km run, in case of emergencies it is always worth having an OTE Energy Gel next to your running shoes in transition that you can take onto the run course.  If it is particularly hot it may be necessary to take additional fluid on board during the bike and run to ensure you remain hydrated.

Olympic Distance Triathlon

You should follow the same pre race meal and hydration strategy as per sprint distance events.  Take an OTE Energy Drink 5 to 10 minutes before the start of the race.  During the bike section carry at least one 750ml drinks bottle of OTE Energy Drink and aim to drink around 500ml.  If it is particularly hot it may be worth taking 2 x 500ml bottles of OTE Energy Drink on the bike and consuming 750ml to 1 litre of fluid during the bike section.  Take an OTE Caffeine or Energy Gel during the last 5Km of the bike to set you up for a fast transition and start to the run section.  Have an OTE Caffeine or Energy Gel next to your running shoes in transition and take it with you to consume at half distance during the run section.  Always ensure you remain hydrated throughout the event and take additional fluid on board during the run if necessary.