With three disciplines to get through, a triathlon is a long event. Even a sprint triathlon (the shortest type of triathlon) will take the average person 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes. The full iron distance can take the average person 13-14 hours to complete. It is therefore to important to consider your fuelling during any triathlon distance to ensure the body has the optimal amount of energy to finish. Adequate fuelling will also help you perform your best!
The general rule for events over 70 minutes is that we should take onboard additional carbohydrates. The gold standard is to consume 30-60g of carbs per hour. A big range so you need to find what works best for you by experimenting with different brands and timings during training. Test your strategy over and over again - this is our key message! What works for you, might be totally different to another triathlete. Be confident in your own plan and don't try anything new on race day!
The easiest option is to consume gels. Most energy gels will contain 20-25g of carbs so we recommend taking a gel every 30 minutes. A Sprint or Olympic distance triathlon is short enough that gels, energy drinks and chews should be ok on the stomach. BUT, again, test this in training! For the half or full distance, it is worth adding some solid foods and saving the gels for the run section.
Fuelling during the swim is pretty impossible so your first intake will be during transition 1 or on the bike. If you are waiting to race through transition to bank time, then we would recommend having an energy drink on your bike and taking this on from the get go. It is important to fuel regularly so you can avoid hitting the wall. If you wait until you are starting to feel low in energy, then it will be harder to get your energy levels back up and this will be detrimental to your performance.
Fuelling during the cycle
We would recommend using an energy drink and solid foods on the bike, such as bars, flapjacks, fruit loaf, bananas or sweets! If you have practiced consuming gels in training and you are confident they work for you, then these are still an option for the bike section, but by having a variety of fuel, you are less likely to get sick of it and then more likely to continue fuelling regularly. There are a few options for storing your nutrition from taping items to your top tube or attaching a storage bag/box to your bike. Your tri-suit will also have some pockets but for the longer events, you'll need options so you can carry plenty with you. We would advise taking more than you think you'll need - don't leave yourself without options!
Fuelling during the run
When it comes to the run, this is where we'd start taking on gels. For the Sprint and Olympic distance, we'd take this gel at the start of the run. Get out of Transition 2 and find your rhythm, then get some energy into you! For the longer triathlon, aim to keep on top of that 30-40 minutes of regular fuelling. Most courses will have water and aid stations so make use of these too, but remember, don't try any new brands on race day!
One final tip! If you are a salty sweater or you are racing somewhere warm, then make sure you are taking on some electrolytes to keep your salt levels topped up! You can add an electrolyte tablet your energy drink or try a drink that also contains salts (we like SIS Electrolyte Go). This will help to prevent cramping, and comes into play for the longer distance triathlons (half and full).
Fuelling is in your control so be organised, practice regularly and stick to your own plan!