Nutrition is often referred to as the fourth discipline in triathlons. To those who have experienced nutrition issues during races, you know how it can make or break your races.
I appear to be very sensitive to the nutrition element of racing. Over the years, I’ve had a full range of very bad race experiences (70.3 Aix-En-Provence) with major stomach issues to other mild experiences with minor GI issues after races. Additionally, I’ve discovered a very significant intolerance to eggs which cause Delayed Pressure Urticaria and other GI distress and it would seem that I tend to perform better without lactose products.
It became evident that in order to make it through a full 11-12 hour race, I would have to be very careful as to what I ingested and how I fueled myself. After several 70.3 distances, it became clear to me that Gels would not work for me. I didn’t like them and always had mild GI issues afterwards. For this long of an event, avoiding issues was a top priority. Additionally, as I researched the PowerBar Perform products provided during the Ironman events, I found that they are “Made On Equipment That Also Processes Egg, Milk And Soy”. This therefore resulted in a big decision on my part to build an autonomous fueling strategy during the bike with the exception of water.
To help build my strategy, I spoke to both my coach and to my wife who is a dietitian. My coach helped me discover a great set of products called “Nutratletic“. The french company offers products that are free of Soy, Wheat, Gluten, Eggs and Milk. To top it off, they also guarantee their product to be free of any doping agent. As this is a particularly important part of my philosophy I started trying them out. They break down their products into three categories (Pre-Race, Race and Post-Race). The Post-Race recovery drink has more protein in it and can also be used during long endurance events (70.3 / Ultras / Ironman). In addition to that, it has products that are both sugary but some that are more salty such as the recovery drink. The soup-flavored drink is great mid-race to break up the monotony of regular sugary sports drink.
I practiced using these sports drinks for the better part of six months and never had a single digestive issue. I also tried it during the Mallorca 70.3 and appeared to handle it well. For the full Ironman I chose to take off with 2 bottles full of the sport drink and had another 2 bottles in the special needs bag with one regular sports drink and our soup-flavored recovery drink. It worked like a charm.
With the hydration piece ironed out, my wife and I set out on finding a suitable “solid” bar that would fit me. After several months of research we accidentally found a product called “Nakd” in a plane ride one time. The bars are made from fruits smooched together without wheat, dairy products, or added sugars. The UK-based company has several flavors which I liked and tested over a long period of time. I have to admit that I even keep some of these bars in my briefcase at all times for when I get a little hungry at work.
To top it off, Nakd products are in waterproof packaging. Why is this important you may ask? Well, I can put a couple of bars in my back pocket and they will survive the swim unscathed. These are important things to triathletes…
In addition to that, I knew I wanted something more consistent during the bike and as a mid-ride snack, I had planned to eat a ham and cheese sandwich with salted butter on it. I prepared for this all year long and it’s more or less a “comfort” food. This worked out perfectly during the race.
Finally, for the run, I kept it simple. With aid stations every mile or so, I used coke, water and orange slices. Towards the end I ate a few saltine crackers but that was about it. I had planned some gummy bears in my special needs bag for the run but never got to them. I do feel bad that I’ve left some perfectly good gummy bears suffering in the heat of the French Riviera without being consumed but alas, I made up for it over the summer!
Overall, this nutrition strategy was very successful for me and got me through the entire race feeling well and I did not experience any GI distress during or even after the race.