Pitfall #2: Bringing an Ironman nutrition plan to a short-course triathlon
Your body’s ability to process calories decreases at intensity increases. As much of the “how to fuel yourself on race day” conversations revolve around long-course triathlon, many short-course athletes exit T1 with an Ironman nutrition plan. They eat or drink too much, their stomachs rebel and their races are done.
Below are calories-per-hour amounts, by distance, that we’ve found to work for a broad range of athletes. You should experiment to find what works best for you, but we encourage you to start on the low side of these recommendations and work up, if necessary. Why? In our experience, only a couple of quick gels or a half-bottle of sports drink are required to quickly fix a legitimate low-calorie or “bonking” nutritional mess-up. But if you make the mistake of overeating and your stomach shuts down? Game over. That is not a quick fix.
Ironman: 175–300 cals/hr, as a function of body size (bigger eats more). We highly recommend you stick to this range first and go higher only if proven necessary.
Half-Ironman: 100–200 cals/hr, as a function of body size and intensity. Faster folks can begin to redline the 70.3 bike, requiring them to reduce their calorie intake or risk the consequences.
Short course: 0–150 cals/hr, as a function of intensity. In our experience, if you’re going to be racing for less than about 2.5 hours and had a good dinner and breakfast before the race, you have enough gas in the tank for the race without really “needing” to ingest any calories. As you’re out there longer, the requirement to eat does exist, but the key is to not drop into Ironman fueling mode. Simply experiment with our 100-150 cals/hr guidance and see what works for you.