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Fuelling For A Long Ironman Training Rides

An Ironman is one of the most demanding endurance events out there. It isn’t just something you roll up to with no preparation. In fact it takes months of training and planning to get it right, and nutrition is one of the areas that requires planning. Whilst it needs planning, it also need practising.

How many times have you heard the phrase “nutrition is the fourth discipline of triathlon”? Strictly speaking, it should be nutrition and hydration, but the point is that when you’re competing in endurance events that (for some) can last up to 17 hours, you need an eating and drinking strategy that will fuel you all the way to the finish line.

I'm sure we all know of some fellow triathletes who will often tell you stories of bonking, stomach cramps and GI distress. Admittedly, there are no one-size-fits-all approach to fueling and hydrating during IRONMAN events, but with some deliberate testing and practice you can develop a personalized plan that works for you on race day.

So what should I be having?

Carbohydrates are the most important fuel for endurance athletes, and it’s good practice to know how many carbohydrates are in a given portion of your preferred nutrition. Your taste buds will help determine what you choose to eat, but there is a huge amount of products to choose from. These products tend to come as bars, gels or chews. These have been designed with athletic performance in mind. Best practice is to select products, which contain multiple sources of carbohydrates (glucose and fructose) as this mix of carbohydrates promotes enhanced absorption.

How much you should eat is a matter of striking a balance between giving your body sufficient fuel and tolerating the intake. If you consume too few calories, you risk bonking or underperforming, too many calories and you could experience GI issues as your gut is unable to process the nutrition, especially at race effort.

So how do you practise this?

SIMPLE... by practising in those long training days and finding out what products work for you!

As a general rule of thumb, endurance athletes should aim to eat 60-90 grams of carbohydrate per hour during Ironman events, with athletes typically able to consume more calories and fluids during the bike leg and fewer calories during the run portion of the event.

This then needs to be replicated in practice via race simulation sessions. A good approach is to start by fuelling on the lower end of carbohydrate intake ranges and if you are successful and do not experience any gut issues or a lack of energy, increase the intake during the subsequent session until you reach an optimal balance. Once you've found a balance, repeat this until race day.

So how does my typical long training ride day look?

Breakfast: (SAME AS RACE DAY!)

  • Bowl of porridge with golden syrup

  • Black Coffee

  • Banana

  • Pint of water

During the ride: (per hour)

  • Secret Training - Big Energy Drink Mix - 500ml

  • Secret Training - Juice Bar X1

  • Secret Training - Fruit Gels X2

  • Saltstick - Salt Tablets X2

Post Ride:

  • Recovery drink including a blend of protein & carboydrates mixed with water (this is done immediately after finishing within a 30min window)

  • Nutritious meal within 1-2hours after finishing training.

This may appear like a lot! But during an ironman you can typically burn between 6000-8000kcal. Whilst you'll never be able to replace that amount directly, it's inevitable you'll be in a calorie deficit, but we want to reduce that amount safely and appropriately.

If you found this useful, and for more help and advise, please get in touch. Please visit and use the discount code MATTD15, this can be used on any of the Secret Training products which I would highly recommend.


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