Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ironwoman Wednesday - Nutrition

I hate to interrupt my 100 Mile Tri race recaps especially since I only have one more leg to go, but today is Wednesday and that means that it is Ironwoman Wednesday!

Ironwoman Wednesday is a weekly linkup on a variety of triathlon-related topics (that will be announced the week before). It is similar to Tri Talk Tuesday that a few other bloggers started, but the more people talking about triathlon the better!

Gabi at Lean Green Island Girl, Michelle at Ironwoman Strong and I are all training for Ironman Louisville. It is really exciting (and encouraging) to be sharing this journey with these two amazing women!

Today's topic is nutrition!

I love to eat, as most people who I am friends with know, but I haven't quite figured out my optimal nutrition plan during a race. You are burning so many calories (8,000 - 10,000 calories during an Ironman, for example), but you can only take in so many calories. You don't want to over-consume and you don't want to under-consume, it is a fine balance.

When I was training for my first half marathon, I tried GU for the first time and I hated it. It must have been the flavor that I picked (tri berry, yuck) because then I tried Clif Shot energy gels in the mocha flavor and they worked relatively well for me. Unfortunately, right around the time of my second marathon, the Cleveland Marathon, energy gels stopped working for me. I couldn't get them down during the race which impacted my performance.

 I guess we're a Honey Stinger family

I started to use Honey Stinger energy chews and this has worked out a lot better for me. During a marathon I will eat two chews every 2-3 miles depending on where the water stops are, during the MDI Marathon I was able to continue eating until mile 22 or so.

Now that we are out training for hours and hours, I need to have a lot of nutrition and hydration with me. Admittedly, I try to eat about the same as I would during a race but I definitely drink less while training. Which is probably why I ended up needing to pee on my bike during the 100 mile tri (hey, it happens).

For a long distance tri (which is different than a marathon or a short distance tri), my nutrition plan looks like this:

Pre-race: I eat a bagel with or without peanut butter, depending on where I am and how I am feeling, about an hour to an hour and a half before the race and I drink water. My guess is that I will also have to have a small snack with me for Ironman Louisville before the swim because we aren't going to be in the water at exactly 7am since it is a time trial start.

Swim: Unfortunately, this isn't the 10K swim in the Olympics (they throw the athletes their nutrition during the race). You are unable to eat during the swim (or I don't think anyone does), but that is alright because the swim is the shortest part of the race and you can make up for it on the bike.

Bike: This is where I eat the most. I finally have figured out, for the most part, my nutrition plan while on the bike. During the 100 mile tri I was drinking water a lot, more than every 5 miles which is usually my plan during a training ride. I don't particularly like sports drinks (Mike does and has both with him during a race/ride) but this is a good option to have too. I will eat something, like a few energy chews, right away to help replenish lost calories after the swim. Then my plan is to alternate between a few energy chews and bites of Clif bars every 5 miles (less than 20 minutes). I also took an energy gel at the halfway point of the bike leg during the 100 mile tri.

Unattractive face but I'm eating an energy gel during a sprint tri

Run: The reason that you eat so much on the bike leg is because it is harder to eat during the run (at least for me it is). I have a sensitive stomach and unfortunately I could only eat a few energy chews during the run last weekend. My typical plan is to eat two energy chews every 2-3 miles and drink water. During the 100 mile tri I also had a few sips of flat Coke and this helped settle my stomach a little bit.

My plan works for me and probably wouldn't work for anyone else, and as I have admitted I am still working on developing a perfect plan for me. Nutrition and hydration are very personal and individual things. Some people eat more real food while on the bike and run (I would like to experiment with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, etc.) and other people only eat energy gels. I do not personally like sports drinks, but I think I need to start incorporating them because I lose too many electrolytes and start to bonk during the run.

I have to remind myself that I do need to eat and drink because I won't make it to the finish line of the race if I don't.

Next week's topic is one of my favorites: transitions!

All opinions expressed in this post are my own. Please do not use it as a substitute for seeking medical care and advice. 


  1. Great topic! I'm a Honey Stinger Waffle gal. Not a fan of the other products but I love the waffles especially on the bike. I also have to remind myself about eating and drinking, it's so easy to get caught up in the moment and forget.

  2. I cannot do gels, so I too am a Honey Stinger Chew girl.

  3. ahh i love talking nutrition! i think it's so interesting what works for people. I don't take in much during my runs even a marathon I might use 1 full gel, but others I know would drop like flies with that!

    mmm love those waffles!

  4. Yep, it's all about trial and error. I'm getting better about taking in fluids on the run, but for the most part, all of my fueling and hydration happens on the bike. I'm OBSESSED with those Honey Stinger Waffles!

  5. I, too, have a bagel with peanut butter before races, and I'm a big fan of Honey Stingers. I can't do the waffles, but the chews get me through my long runs. I also love the Simply Salty Electro-Bites after a long run; it's nice to have something salty instead of sweet, especially when it gets hot here.
    Thanks for the tips! This is going to be a helpful series for me!