As many Ironman athletes know, half the battle of the race is nutrition. How to get enough calories and when to take in the calories are two of the main nutritional concerns that athletes have.
An Ironman consists of 10 - 15 Hours of pure endurance type activity. Because of this, the athlete must have a great aerobic base and also must possess the ability to be able to fuel his/her body during the entire event by taking in the necessary amount of calories.
Check out the article below, by Robert Kunz, of First Endurance, to get ideas on how to obtain the necessary calories during long distance events.
How do I get enough calories in during long races?
Robert Kunz, MS
As the distance increases in training and racing, so does the importance and reliance on nutrition. Fueling a long workout can many times be a daunting task when considering fuel type, electrolyte balance, digestibility, solid vs. liquid, taste and performance. Many athletes are left at a loss and don’t know exactly what to do.
Though science and products have come a long way, endurance nutrition is still in its infancy. There is still an abundance of information we do not know about ideal fueling for ultra long training and racing. With athletes pushing the limits of endurance we are constantly evolving in our design and recommendation of endurance nutrition. Because the human body is highly adaptable, the task of developing a nutrition plan does not need to be as complex and technically advanced as you think.
The following recommendations are based both on science and experience. I have purposely left numbers and specifics out of these recommendations because they tend to be too rigid and also cloud important principals that should be used to develop an individualized program. If you want specifics about what carbohydrates and amounts you need review the Carbohydrates for Endurance Newsletter. Follow these few basic principles and you will remain well fueled for Ultra long workouts.
Practicing your nutrition is equally as important as your physical workout. The simple act of taking nutrition in at the same rate and make-up as you plan on race day is the act of nutrition training. It may take an athlete 12 weeks to work up to a 20 mile run. Equally, it may take you 12 weeks to train your body to adapt to its nutrition demands.
Adapt your Nutrition!
Make adjustments to your nutrition in order to pinpoint your strategy. Every human is infinitely different and requires self-adjustments in order to peak. A nutrition plan, weather it comes from a book, coach or on-line is only a recommended blue-print. Use this recommendation and adjust as necessary to meet your needs.
Find your limit! Training = Practice
How many calories can you consume in an hour when your heart rate is at threshold? This is what practice is all about. When we train, we all have workouts where we max our HR, hence we all know what our max is. Knowing your max nutrition consumption is a big step in determining what you can handle calorically over the long-haul.
Build from your Foundation
A foundation including a mix of carbohydrates, electrolytes and amino acids is simply your foundation. Once that has been established add foods, snacks or drinks personalized to you.
Eat what you crave
When going Ultra long, it is critical that you take in calories. It is much easier and more satisfying to consume what you crave, then to struggle with consuming what you think you should consume. As long as your foundation (see above) is solid, consuming foods that you normally crave, not only leads to satiety, it parallels what your body needs. IE: Athletes who crave sweets, need sweets..athletes who crave salt, need salt. Your body is very smart in its ability to send signals to your brain letting you know what you need.
The take home message in these recommendations is to treat your nutrition like you do your physical training. Learn from your workouts and constantly fine tune your nutrition. Keep in mind that practicing your nutrition during workouts not only assures you will be prepared on race day, it also goes a long way in improving your ability to work out and recover better. In the end it’s these workouts that make you a faster endurance athlete. If you leave the nutrition out until a week before your race, then you missed a golden opportunity.