Proper nutrition and hydration are essential for best athletic performance. For serious athletes, good nutrition habits can be the key to unlocking your body’s full potential. Energy intake, hydration status, and recovery strategies each play a vital role in maximizing performance.
Few athletic endeavors compare with the challenge of training for and competing in IRONMAN® events. The strategy and science on which IRONMAN® athletes rely to safely and optimally fuel their bodies maps a foundation on which all athletes can build. This guide is designed to help all athletes optimize their personal nutrition while participating and competing in any endurance triathlons.
ELEVATE YOUR ENERGY
Carbohydrates are King
Our bodies need energy to perform. Carbs are the body’s preferred fuel source as they break down quickly for energy. Unfortunately, there is not enough storage room in the body for carbohydrates to provide fuel for extended periods. To maintain your body’s energy levels, you should consume carbs in the form of liquids, solids or gels.
Carbs: Solid Foods
During training and some competitions, solid foods can provide bulk and a feeling of fullness. For longer duration events, such as bike rides greater than 50 miles and golf, solid foods like fruit, sports bars, and pieces of bread are excellent sources of energy.
Carbs : Liquids
Sports drinks typically contain a carbohydrate concentration of 6 to 8 percent, which is optimal for easy absorption. This is much lower than fruit juice, which delivers about a 12 percent concentration of carbohydrates that can lead to stomach discomfort during competition.
ENHANCE YOUR HYDRATION
Adequate hydration is imperative when you’re physically active. Otherwise, you’re at risk for dehydration, the inability to replace lost fluid needed for normal body functioning. Dehydration not only impairs athletic performance, especially in a hot environment, but it can be life-threatening if not properly managed.
Electrolytes like sodium, potassium and chloride, essential for proper hydration, are also lost when sweating. For maximum benefit during training and competition, it’s best to consume fluids in small amounts every 10 to 20 minutes. Depending on whether or not you need electrolyte replacement, it’s easy to consume fluid by drinking water and sports drinks.
Water is a calorie and electrolyte-free form of fluid replacement, best consumed by itself for a shorter duration, or less intense competitions such as a 5K run. For longer duration, higher intensity events, or when exercising in extreme heat, you may need to combine water with other energy and electrolyte sources.
Sports drinks provide a combination of fluid, electrolytes and carbohydrates. The sodium provided in sports drinks assists in fluid absorption while also replacing sodium lost through sweat. Sports drinks are also helpful as they may promote the drinking of additional fluids due to their sodium content and flavour profile.