Ironman Fueling: Fitting Solid Food Into Your Race Day Nutrition Plan

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The problem of keeping down solid foods in a race is a fairly common issue among endurance athletes, especially Ironman triathletes, and it can seriously detract from your best performance as well as make for an unpleasant day. Pip Taylor provides solutions to keep this problem from affecting you come race day.

Written by: Pip Taylor

There is no question that during an Ironman event you need to take in a considerable amount of fuel (30-60g CHO per hour), but whether this is in a solid or liquid form is up to the individual – both will provide sufficient energy if used correctly. Relying solely on liquids and gels though for an entire Ironman brings the risk of “flavor fatigue” – that is, not being able to face swallowing yet another gel or gulp of sports drink and thus consciously or subconsciously choosing simply not to eat instead.

You also risk getting too hungry, especially during the bike, and this is where eating solid foods can be most beneficial. So before you rule them out of your race plan consider other factors that may be the cause of the discomfort, including: intensity of effort, climate, anxiety, concentration of gut contents, familiarity of foods/drinks from training, hydration status and effect of pre-race meals.

If you have ticked all of these boxes and still find that solid foods are causing discomfort then consider using liquid foods or drinks that contain protein – these should be easy on the stomach yet help to fill you up and add some much-needed variety to your race diet.

So what sorts of solid foods might be appropriate during a race? There are no hard and fast rules – what works for some will not work for others. This principle applies to the timing of eating as well. Some athletes will be able to eat solid foods even during the run, and others will want to stop taking in solids about half an hour before they get off the bike. Experimentation is important. Find something that you enjoy eating and sits well during exercise.

All of the foods listed below will provide approximately 50g CHO, or the amount you will want to eat during a one-hour segment of an Ironman race. Remember to have plenty of water with these snacks and that you don’t need to eat the whole serving at once. Break the snacks into portions that are comfortable in the stomach and easily digested.

– Banana (2-3 medium size)

– 1.8 oz (50g) jelly beans

– Jam sandwich (2 slices white bread with 4 teaspoons jam)

– Muesli/cereal bar (1.5-2 bars – choose a lower fat variety)

– Energy bar (1-1.5 bars)

– 2 oz pretzels

– Chocolate bar (1.5 bars – these are higher in fat but can help relieve hunger as well as boredom!)

                Pip Taylor has raced professionally for almost the last 10 years around the globe. For a full bio, resume and contact details please see

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