There is a lot of information out there on race day nutrition from articles to advice from friends, coaches, and fellow racers. What is the best product, what will help an athlete achieve their PR or get them to the finish line of an Ironman?
When it comes to race day nutrition, I am not against science (I will admit, the title is a little bit of an attempt at click bait). Science has allowed us to make amazing strides in nutrition and training and I use it to guide me. However, I also like to go by the philosophy of find what works best for you. It does not matter how great a product is, how science has proven it is the best product. If your stomach cannot tolerate it, if it will make you sick, then it does not matter how great it is if you will not be taking it in.
The most important thing you an do is to try different products in your training and see how you respond to them. How does your stomach tolerate it, how does it make you feel during and after your training session.
Coach Dana, when she did Ironman Wisconsin, had to find what would work for her. She could not stomach gels, they made her sick. So she did some reading and tried different products. In the end she discovered her stomach could tolerate white bread with almond butter and shot blocks. It worked for her as she had a 3 hour PR. Another athlete I had ate SPAM sandwiches when she conquered her first Ironman after having an unsuccessful first attempt. Personally when I race shorter distance tri's I drink a mix of half orange Gatorade and water. I do this because the orange flavor suits me and the reason it is half water is because I don't like the taste of warm Gatorade, which happens in the summer as your bike sits in transition. By diluting it, it tastes a little lighter and I am more likely to drink it. For Ironman Wisconsin I used Nuun because I could not choke down what was being offered on the course. I liked the taste of it and it was easy to have the tablets if I needed to mix more up during the race. The decision was made to change to eating bonk breakers as that was offered on the course and I like them. If there were any problems taking in bonk breakers, then it would have required me to find a different solution. My preference for gels is GU, however, what flavor of GU I use will depend on the outside temps. If it is really hot, flavors like Chocolate, Mocha, Chocolate mint, Salted Caramel don't appeal to me, I find they are hard to eat. My preference are for flavors that seem to be lighter when taking them in, such as citrus flavors or raspberry.
If you are convinced a certain product is best do to reviews you have read or advice from coaches and friends, but you you keep finding yourself not feeling well or having GI issues, try something different. The definition of insanity is trying the same thing or and over again and expecting a different result. The good news is, there are a lot different products you can try and you will find what works best for you.
Have you found something that has worked best for you? Please leave a comment as it may work for someone else.
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