Nutrition Strategies for Triathlon

Nutrition Strategies for Triathlon

There can be a lot of confusion around what kind of fuel is best for this event—and for good reason. The market is flooded with sports nutrition foods, supplements, and products, and if we asked 100 triathletes what they use, we'd probably get 100 different and successful fueling plans. What works for one athlete might not work for another—all the more reason to make sure that by race day, you've found a different plan that works for you. So how should it be like?


During the competition season, the training nutrition through food and supplement should be adapted to reflect the higher training load and need for high-quality training with increased speed and power. Carbohydrate (different types of foods) intake needs to be sufficient to balance daily fuel needs, but still periodised to match the training demands of the day. Protein should be prioritized, too, around training sessions to assist in optimal muscle regeneration, immune function and recovery. Choosing foods with healthy and minimal fats will also help boost recovery and help meet energy requirements. Ensure a variety of food for an adequate intakes of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are achieved.

Hydration needs

Fluid requirements vary between individuals depending on sweat rate and sweat composition, weather conditions, timing of the race and ability to tolerate fluid while training and competing. And so, athletes should start races well hydrated and continue to optimise good hydration throughout the race. Dehydration, both in training and racing, can lead to fatigue, loss of concentration, loss of stamina and impaired performance due to loss of power and intensity. Subsequently fluid should be prioritised as a component to an athlete’s nutrition. A combination of water and sports drinks is advisable in a strategized way.


Long distance triathlons most frequently start in the early morning anywhere between 6-8am. Eating any more than 2 hours before the race can be a challenge and pre-race nutrition needs to be modified to suit this. Ideally a pre-race easy to digest, carbohydrate-rich meal should be eating 90-120 mins before the start. Suitable options include cereal, porridge, muesli, crumpets, English muffins or toast. For athletes struggling with poor appetite and nerves, liquid meal options may be better tolerated – for example fruit smoothies or liquid meal replacements. Top up snack/s such as banana or sports bars can then be eaten over the 30-60mins before the race start. Small serves of sports drink or a sports gel 10-15 min prior to swim start will assist in fuelling the swim. This strategy however is highly individual and will be dependent on the athlete, their tolerance and intensity of racing.

The difference between nutrition for you as a triathlete and someone who is a sedentary person is you need to ensure you get enough of the right nutrients at the right time.

The optimal nutritional strategy will allow athletes to:

●Train more frequently and efficiently,
●Reduce injuries happening in the event,
●Train at higher intensities and with more power,
●Acquire adaptation from every session,
●Reduce risk of illness or fatigue,
●Maintain a healthy body weight and strength,
●Recover quicker from training.


1.Breakfast on the final race day should be similar to training days. Stick primarily with carbohydrates, proteins and minimal fats. Toast with peanut butter, or eggs and pancake, oatmeal and Carbohydrate energy drinks are a popular choice.
2.Finish the breakfast 2-3 hours prior the race, so that the food is absorbed better and gives good energy flow.
3.In the 2 hours before, sip a lot of water, with carbohydrate and electrolyte drinks.
4.Athletes can take a Carbohydrate gel just before the race starts.
Nutrition Strategies for triathlon

1.Starting the bike- For the first few minutes of the cycling, drink carbohydrate and energy drinks in minimal calories in the form of sports drinks. Let your body adjust to the activity, and let your heart rate drop down. Then start consuming energy gels every 30 minutes of your activity when you have settled into a good cycling rhythm. Follow the strategies you have trained with all season, do nothing new on a race day.
2.Consume the 30g Maltodextrin energy gel every 30 minutes and electrolyte throughout the race for fueling back the energy and electrolytes lost in the sweat. So consume at least 100 calories per hour coming from these gels. Test it all in the training that you daily.
3.Drink at least 1-1.5l of fluid per hour(water and Fast & Up Reload Carbohydrate electrolyte drink combined). This is about 2 small bottles to 2 large bottles per hour of the activity, depending on climate and your personal perspiration rate. A training tip is to weight yourself pre and post your activity to track the loss of water.
4. Set your mind to replenish the electrolytes and energy lost in the race.
5.A simple is to consume Fast & Up Energy Gel every 30 minutes of your activity. About 100 calories every 30 minutes of your activity and a bottle of electrolyte sports drink per hour. Sip it throughout the race event.
6.The products used should also provide the following minerals/electrolytes, which will help you absorb your drink into your blood stream, and avoid cramping.
7.The supplements used on the event day should be practiced on training days first.
8.Before your race is going to end, you should reduce your calorie intake and only take in sports drinks. This allows your stomach to empty while still allowing your gut to absorb the food and fluid ingested earlier. You will be able to start the run in a comfortable state. Once you start the run start fueling in a similar way.
Nutrition Strategies for triathlon

1.Wait for few minutes into the run until your heart rate levels off before starting your nutrition hydration regime.
2.Often athletes HR are higher on the run than the bike. If this is the case, calorie consumption should be 15-25% lower per hour than on the bike.
3.Athletes should fin liquid calories easier to digest on the run, in the form of Carbohydrate electrolyte drinks. It is also advisable to have Maltodextrin Carbohydrate energy gels every 30 minutes of the run.
4.Follow a similar rule for consuming sports drinks throughout the race time.
Nutrition for 70.3 races deserves as much thought and planning as the rest of your ‘physical’ training activity. You should strategise and develop a plan and practice it repeated in training to ensure that you finish the bike leg with energy left and set yourself to ace your run. Your nutrition plan should be customized. It assumes that you have determined your own energy requirements, and you know your digestive capabilities.
Nutrition Strategies for triathlon

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Sayali Naik

-Expert and Writer

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