The Triathlon Execution Seminar, Lesson #5 — Race Day Nutrition

In this lesson we cover how to fuel and hydrate yourself during Ironman. This is critical because you need to fuel yourself during the event (duh) but also because there is sooo much bogus information out there!

We’ll be soon with information on Race Day Logistics!
Rich & Patrick


Part 1: Race Day Nutrition Overview

Our advice below is based on the scientific research and our observation of what has worked across hundreds of age grouper athletes, just like you. This is not the nutrition “plan” espoused by Joe Pro who did blah, blah back in the day.

In short, it works and has worked for many, many people. We HIGHLY recommend you try it our way first, in training, and prove that you are the exception that needs to eat more or do something differently.
The simple fact is that we have never seen an athlete have a bad race because they took in too few calories. Rather, we’ve seen many, many athletes have a bad day as a result of taking in too many calories and improper pacing, especially on the bike.


Part 2: Nutrition Advice and Timeline

Beginning the day before the race, the scenario you are trying to create is that at 6:58am on race day:
  • You have pre-loaded your body with water and sodium.
  • You have taken in about 600-800 calories race morning, but..
  • Your stomach is mostly empty, ie, you’ve digested your breakfast, it’s out of your gut, and you’re now in control of everything that goes into it.
Day Before:

  • Have a large lunch and we recommend you get dinner to go, saving yourself an admin stuff. Lightly salt your food.
  • Hydrate with Gatorade or a sportsdrink throughout the day but no need to go crazy.
  • Have an early dinner.
Race Day:
  • 2am: wake up and have whatever breakfast you are used to having. However, we HIGHLY recommend a liquid or easily digestable form — protein fruit smoothie, about 600-800cals, that you can slam quickly and then go back to sleep.
  • ~4:30 or whatever time you are going to for-real wake up: very light food, if you feel you need it. Maybe a bagel or something.
  • Transition: sip sports drink, maybe pop a gel or two before about 6:15-30, etc.

Note that with the strategy above you’ve now eaten 800+ cals, in easily digestible form, across several hours before the start.

Throughout the race:
Swim: Try not to hydrate 🙂

  • Fuel: Water only for the first 30 minutes, giving your body time to settle in. Thereafter, we recommend 200-250 calories per hour, regardless of source. Note that this is probably less than you’ve been told but…see above. It’s not about how much you “need,” it’s about how much can your body process at race pace. We’ve found that 200-300cal/hr works for 95% of you. Try it our way and prove you are the exception, and remember that you are only minutes away from an infinite number of calories (aid stations). We recommend liquid or very easily digested sources. Gels should be taken with water.
  • Fluids: 1.5-2 bottles per hour.
  • Sodium: about 500-1000mg per hour


  • Fuel: 150-250cal/hr. Realize that you’re body is very much on the edge. You’ve been asking a lot of it, for a long time, so you need to be careful of how much else you demand of it. You also go from hitting aid stations every 30-45′ on the bike to every 8-12′ on the run = very easy to over eat at a time when your body is most on the edge. We highly recommend all liquid sources: coke, Gatorade, etc. Gels should be taken with water.
  • Fluid: again, about 30oz per hour. Just get what you need at every aid station.
  • Sodium: about 500-1000mg per hour.

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