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Great discussion Charles! Let’s hope others will join as well 🙂
First off, THERE IS NO SILVER BULLET WITH SPORT NUTRITION! This is nothing but a trial & error process. What works for one, will not work for another. Everyone has a different caloric needs. Everyone is training and racing at a different HR, pace, goal. Everyone’s needs are different. This is why we are doing a Nutrition Clinic on this in a few weeks and this is why I dedicate a very large portion of my Athlete’s Guide to this exact topic. Please read/join both!
Otherwise, here is the start of what you need to know. What is similar amongst most athletes is that you have enough ‘stores’ for about 75 minutes of exercise. However, it takes ~15 minutes for any nutrition to hit your bloodstream. This is why most athletes will start taking nutrition around the 60 minute mark. This is, however, if you go into the workout with full stores (ie a good breakfast, properly hydrated, etc). If you do a swim beforehand (like in a race setting), you will need to start taking calories immediately on the bike (or other workout).
You can certainly start sipping a sport drink earlier or even get in small amounts of calories earlier than 60 minutes. You will just need to test your stomach to make sure it accepts it. This is why we recommend drinking small sips and eating small bites on regular frequencies versus gulping your sports drink and eating a full crustables at one time. This is likely going to cause GI disturbance. If you don’t want to take some time to properly plan your nutrition plan for training and racing, you should stick with short course racing where this the standard. However if you want to have a long course race success, advanced planning and preparation cannot be avoided.
So, with this in mind, what are others considering or already using as calories on the bike?