Nutrition – Nutrition is the biggest mystery in long endurance sports but it doesn’t have to be. I have seen people run the gamut on the food at an Ironman event from pancakes, oatmeal, Spam, PB &J, Big Mac’s, Ensure, raw meat and the usual gels and gummy blocks on the market today. And, there is no doubt that one needs to eat and receive calories during such a long athletic event as Ironman. Hopefully, the calories that one consumes and digests works with an elevated heart rate, cold/heat, excessive fatigue and overall bodily confusion.
The night prior to the Ironman is critical for the success of the next day. My advise to the athletes I coach is to eat and drink as normal as possible. For instance, if you have beer and pizza on most Saturday nights and you are usually done with that by 7pm then that is exactly what you should be having the night before your Ironman if it’s on a Sunday. If everyone is going out for an ice cream on Saturday night after dinner and you never have ice cream, please do NOT get ice cream. You can have plenty of ice cream when you are finished with your race and it won’t matter what happens to your intestines. So, if you are not used to eating a salad or bread or scallops or tofu please do not eat these the night before your race even it means cooking your own meal. Assuming that you’ve done this properly your bodily functions will be as close to normal the next morning. Now, the morning of the race. If you are used to eating breakfast please have the same, even though your nerves may not let you eat a lot. Do your best to fuel with exactly what you would on any given day. The reason why is, you want to keep everything as normal as possible. Your body doesn’t want any surprises while performing at Ironman; it doesn’t need any extra stress. Leaner athletes are recommended to eat more than stockier built athletes mainly because there is more body to burn. And toping off the tank for a lean athlete is needed.
The main goal is to keep water, sugar and electrolyte levels steady. You want to encourage your body to burn at a slow rate. So, feeding it with two much volume at one time can be detrimental just as not feeding it much very seldom can be detrimental too. So, providing small amounts often will ensure a healthier flow of nutrition in to a performing body. This is why excessive outputs of energy are dangerous. The same goes for excessive input or lack of input of nutrition. Signs that are evidence of a need for nutrition are as follows; fatigue, feeling emotional, twitching of muscles, a poor performance, and irritability. Incredibly suppling your body with two to three swigs of water, a gel and some electrolyte powder makes you feel like a million bucks. Thats the good news. The bad news is you now have to keep doing this every 20-30 minutes. The worst news is if you don’t all of the signs that I mentioned above will begin to compound and eventually put your body in to the shut down mode. At this point, literally, your body is in an emergency state. You can recover from this but you can kiss your PR good-bye. It ain’t happening today. A perfectly fueled body, along with proper pacing, can appear to be super human and blast through to new heights. All has to be in perfect alignment which is a rare but relished day when it occurs.