NUTRITION TIPS FOR DURING YOUR TRIATHLON 

Here are a some examples of my (bad) experiences during my 15 years of experience:

-          French Junior Championship 2008 : my bars and gels taped to my bike frame. Result ⇒  lost my bars during the race, hypoglycaemia guaranteed.

-          Gérardmer Triathlon 2009, M format: forgot to feed myself in the cycling stage. Result ⇒ terrible hypoglycaemia during the running stage (it took me 25 minutes to run the last 2 km).

-          Malterningen Triathlon 2010, L format: no room for carrying my gels in my race number belt so I slid them in my trisuit around my thighs during the race. Result ⇒ My lovely 120€ suit with a hole in the thighs.

-          Obernai Triathlon 2011, M format: I opened a gel during the running stage but I didn't want to eat the whole thing. Result ⇒ fingers full of sticky gel.

OK, none of that was very smart! Today even I laugh at my distastes, but at the time I felt silly. That said, I don't think I'm alone in having tempted such experiments. And if we're here today, it's so that you - new triathletes - avoid the same errors.

First and foremost, there is an important questions that needs an answer: why is it important to eat during a triathlon? Once we've answered that, we'll explain what to eat and how so that you see the whole distance of a triathlon. Finally, I will present a few products that will make it easier to eat during the race and to help you avoid the disasters I suffered when I was younger.

YOUR BODY: A HIGH-PERFORMANCE CAR!

Before talking about how to eat during a triathlon, it's important that you understand why it's necessary to feed yourself during an endurance race. We'll try to make it simple: to start with, let's compare an endurance athlete to a car. To move forward, your car needs an engine. And for the engine to function, you need fuel. The fuel (whether you choose diesel or lead free) goes in the tank. If you don't fill the tank regularly, the car breaks down because it doesn't have any fuel. Without fuel, your engine stops and the car can't go any further ("Elementary my dear Watson"). Your body works exactly the same way. Your body (car) needs its muscles (the engine) to swim, pedal and run. And your muscles need energy (fuel) to function. We may have an advantage over the car (we use three tanks, not one), it doesn't change the nature of the problem. If we don't give our muscles fuel, we come to a grinding halt. When you start a triathlon, our three tanks (carbohydrates, protein and lipids) are full. And, basically, it takes between 4 minutes and 1 hour to empty your tanks when exercising. But rest assured, we're not here to go into detail about how each tank works. You now understand that you have to give your muscles fuel to finish a triathlon. For that, you need to eat while you're in action. This is where we stop the theory and get practical.

WHAT SHOULD YOU EAT, AND WHEN?

energy-fruit-mix

We have just explained that you need to eat regularly to have the necessary fuel during exercise: everyone has their own method, but most triathletes agree with this schedule: eat every 30 minutes during an endurance activity. But it is also important to understand that everyone is different! The timing, but more importantly, the quantities are differ for different (tri)athletes. What works for me won't necessarily work for you. It's up to you to find the right doses and timing for yourself! This is my method: I don't eat during the swimming stage of a triathlon. For several reasons: It's the first of the three stages and you rarely spend more than 45 mins to one hour in the water. If you were awake for the first part, you understand that the body's reserves are sufficient to keep you going. And more importantly, have you ever tried to eat while swimming... ? I've been swimming for 15 years and I've never even thought about it. So we are going to eat during the cycling and running stages. When cycling, I eat every 30 minutes and only solids (I'll explain why later). There are many brands but I use Aptonia products almost exclusively: chocolate, nougat (my favourite) cereal bars and fruit jellies. For long activities (L and XL triathlons) some people even bring little sandwiches. It seems to work quite will, but I've never tried it. Finally, when running I eat every 20-30 minutes and only semi-liquid or liquid (gels) products  because I can't chew when I'm running. What's more, because I can't swallow large quantities, I need to reduce the time to 20 minutes between each dose. Liquid and semi-liquid products are easy to swallow and prevent me from losing my breath or getting a stitch. And there again, I use Aptonia products. There are two ranges: the range for shorter activities under 3 hours and the range for activities over 3 hours. Now, let's do some maths: I took the average time of the last Paris triathlon (M with 1,500m swimming/40km cycling/10km running). The total average time was 2h40min, divided as follows: -          an average of 35 minutes swimming. -          1h15min on average for cycling. -          50 minutes on average for running. So according to my logic, you need: -          3 products on the bike, knowing that I take one soon after getting out of the water, then one every 30 minutes. -          2 products when running, knowing that I take the first 10-15 minutes after starting). Don't forget these are average times. Some of you will go faster, and as a result eat less, and others will be slower, and so eat more. That's the problem.  

WHERE TO PUT YOUR PRODUCTS FOR EATING DURING THE RACE AND, HOW TO REUSE THEM?

And that's where, you're about to see, Decathlon have thought long and hard about how to make your life easier during a triathlon.

 

NUTRITION BASKET

The nutrition bag

This bag is designed to be used on your bike. Whether you're doing a triathlon on a road or mountain bike the bag works on both bikes. It has rip-tabs for attaching it to your bike frame. Where? On the bar between your legs, just under the handlebars. It's the right size, streamlined, and is compatible with all bikes. The bag holds up to 6 bars. I've tested it and it even carries a bit more if you use nougat or jellies. The bag is both very comfortable and practical. It's much simpler to grab your product, within easy reach and under your eyes than in a rear pocket or your race belt holder!

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RACE NUMBER BELT

The race number belt

The triathlete's essential accessory. The name says it all: it holds your race number with three self-perforating attachments (according to triathlon race-number rules). But your belt can do much more! Aptonia have developed a belt with 4 slots - two on the left and two on the right where you can carry 4 gels. The slots are purposefully small but elastic so your gels are lodged in firmly and don't risk falling out. What's more, the inside of the belt has been improved with a silicon strip which stops it moving about, particularly when you're running. I had this problem regularly with my old belts, and let me tell you, I felt the difference when I tried this one.  

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energy-gel-geasy

G-Easy Energy Gel

The first major innovation that makes eating easier during a triathlon. The main problem when you eat gels is that you can't eat a whole one in one hit. But once it's open, you can't close it again. So you either have to eat the whole thing, or hold it in your hands, knowing you are going to get it all over the place.What's more, opening gels is not always easy: sometimes you need to use your teeth to open the packaging. The G-Easy is easy to understand: Aptonia simply took the gels and doubled the volume and added a teat to close it. In the standard position, the teat is closed and the gel doesn't ooze out. When you want to consume your gel, you simply have to press on the teat with your teeth and suck the gel. Then the teat goes back to the initial position and you can store your gel without having to eat it all straight away and without getting it all over the place!  For people like me who can't eat all a whole gel at once, it's a fabulous innovation. It makes it much easier to manage your supplies when running.  

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easy opening bar

Easy opening/closing bars

It's the same as the logic for the gels: one of the main problems when you are doing a triathlon is opening and storing the products. It can even be dangerous: opening a cereal bar when you're cycling is not easy, and if you concentrate on that, you're not concentrating on the road. I have done it more than once, and nearly fallen as a result. That's why the whole Ultra product range (fruit jellies, almond and nougat bars) are now easier to open and close. It's simple: there is a small orange strip on the packaging. Pull on it to open the product, eat it, and if you haven't eaten it all, stick the strip back on to close the packaging. Quite frankly, I saw a lot a difference. Eating while cycling is no longer stressful, because, just like for the gels, it makes is easer for me to eat when I need to!  

Finally, if you look at it, Aptonia has not created anything incredible. But frankly, I have tried them regularly, and I can assure you they make it much easier to eat when exercising. Easy opening and closing, being able to adapt my consumption to my needs...they are real advantages for triathletes.

 

Cédric-Aptonia

Cédric

I've been doing triathlons for 15 years. Triathlon is not just a sport, it's a way of life. I am lucky enough to have tried all the different triathlon distances, from XS to L. I am a better runner than swimmer, and I was able to participate in the French championship in D2 then D1 in duathlon with my first club (TRIMOVAL). I'm going back this year in D2 of the duathlon with my club from Champigny. But most importantly, I fulfilled my number one dream this year: the Ironman® triathlon in Vichy on the 26th of August.

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