For those preparing to compete in the 2016 Ironman World Championships in Kona in early October, the final stages of preparation are often the most crucial and the most stressful. Although not much more in the way of training can be done to improve race-day fitness—this is the time to taper and rest—there is still considerable mental and logistical work to be done in anticipation of the morning of October 8.
Ironman competitors are a seasoned lot and by the time race day rolls around, everyone should follow an individualized plan for in-race hydration and nutrition. Although individual needs vary widely, here are some basic facts and figures that can inform your plans:
The Basic Facts:
- Competitors will burn more than 7,000 calories to complete the course
- Racers can lose over two gallons of sweat, along with 3-4 teaspoons of salt.
Let’s Get Ahead of That:
- Fluid intake: Drinking too little results in performance-sapping dehydration, while drinking too much can lead to hyponatremia, a potentially deadly disturbance in fluid-electrolyte balance.
- Salt intake: Along with sweat comes salt. Sodium and chloride are lost in the greatest amounts in sweat, along with potassium, magnesium, calcium, and dozens of other minerals and metabolites. A simple rule of thumb is to ingest 1,000 milligrams (1 gram) of sodium per quart (liter) of sweat loss. Salty sweaters will need more to keep pace with their losses.
- Carb intake: Although competitors may burn over 7,000 calories on race day, they need only consume roughly 240 to 360 calories of carbohydrate each hour (60-90 grams per hour) to optimally fuel their muscles.
- Protein intake: Ironman muscles rely primarily on carbohydrate and fat as fuel, but some body protein will also be broken down. Periodically consuming a small amount of protein from energy bars or other sources during the race won’t do any harm and may help offset protein use during the race.
- Fat intake: We all have enough body fat to fuel even a 17-hour Ironman, so there’s no performance benefit to consuming fat during the race. Some competitors enjoy the comforting effects eating some fat (e.g., a handful of M&Ms like Crowie Alexander), but the risk of consuming fat is decreased gastric emptying rate and increased bloating and burping.
- HOTSHOT intake: For those racers prone to muscle cramps or wishing for a boost in Neuro Muscular Performance, consume one bottle 15-30 minutes before the cannon goes off and have some product on hand during the race in the event you feel a muscle cramp coming on or you need a boost to keep your race plan on track. Stock up early: Each IRONMAN competitor will receive samples of HOTSHOT during race week, at the IRONMAN Expo Village, will be available for purchase via Velo Stop, as well as along the Run Course near Aid Station #10 (MM 14.9/20.3).
Train Smarter: 5 things every triathlete should incorporate into their IRONMAN training plan.
Carbs and Protein: 7 tips for proper intake for optimal fuel.
Running Tips: How to taper for race day.