You Can Be An Ironman – 4. Nutrition
Whether you’re new to the sport of triathlon or you’re looking to take your racing to the next level, this series of articles will help you on your journey to your first Ironman. Covering numerous topics and answering all your questions from fitting the extensive training around work and family life to a complete kit guide, example workouts, and how to choose a race including testimonials from those who have done them. This is your ultimate companion to becoming an Ironman.
When it comes to training and racing for hours at a time, nailing your nutrition and hydration are key. Working out a strategy that works for you personally is paramount and sticking to it could be the difference between a PB and a DNF.
What to eat during Ironman triathlon
One of the biggest debates surrounding Ironman triathlon nutrition is whether to go with real food or not. Many athletes will opt for gels and sugary drinks, but you might find that eating real food such as protein balls and homemade snacks work better for you. This takes trial and error in training as certain foods might upset your stomach while you’re moving. Some of the best foods to eat during a long endurance event like an Ironman include:
- Protein balls
- Peanut butter sandwiches
- Pretzels (good for sodium but can be very dry, especially if you’re dehydrated)
- Pickles and pickle juice
- Dried or fresh fruit
- Sugar cubes
- Energy gels
- Sports/electrolyte drink
Top Tip: If you take on a lot of energy gels and sugary drinks during training, brush your teeth as soon as you get home to protect against cavities and tooth loss due to the excessive sugar consumption.
Ironman hydration strategy
A hugely important part of staying hydrated is taking on salt as well as water. As you sweat, you lose sodium and electrolytes and if you only drink water, you could enter a state known as hyponatraemia. This is when your body's sodium levels are dangerously low and in this context is caused by replenishing water but not electrolytes or salts.The best way to stay safe and hydrated when doing an Ironman, especially in the heat, is to top up your sodium before you run and then keep it topped up by drinking a sports drink or taking electrolyte tablets.