Ask the Experts: Triathlon Nutrition with Lynn Clay

Catch up with the highlights from our webchat with Maxifuel nutritionist Lynn Clay.



Q. What is the current thinking on taking on protein during a long-distance event? Ferrous Ferret

A. Protein during exercise is a relatively new area of scientific interest. Some research suggests that muscle damage is reduced after exercise when protein is included in the fuelling regime. However, no performance advantage has been shown in studies in a temperate climate. However, some studies looking at protein added to carbs when exercising in a hot environment have found a performance benefit, which they believe is due to an improved thermoregulation. There has also been a suggestion that digestion is less impaired over a long event due to a possible protective effect on the gut (this has been suggested for collostrum too). 

My take on this is as the response to fuelling is very individual, it is worth considering taking on protein in your carbohydrate drink if you digest it well and have tried and tested it in training. If you're in a hard training block then potentially the protective effect on the muscle could support recovery from workout to workout and if you're racing in the heat you could potentially reap the most benefit.

Q. What is your strategy for long bike training sessions? I try and stick to race nutrition but often find the more I eat the better I feel. My worry is that I actually eat more calories than I burn. Do you try and stick to race nutrition on training rides or do you eat less? Ajford1

A. I personally stick to race fuelling working on 1g carbohydrates per kilogram of body mass per hour. 

The key is being able to get your carbohydrates on board in the right balance with fluid to avoid GI distress (aim for a 6-8 per cent concentration, for example 45-60g carb per 750 ml water). When following this it is very unlikely you'll consume more calories than you burn. Keeping within this range will allow you to run better off the bike too. 

However, everyone is different however, and if you find a nutrition plan that works for you that is slightly different from this science then this is the one you should go with. Science is the start point and then every individual should look at how that science fits them and gradually experiment to find out what fuels them best.

Q. On long bike rides I often want something savoury to break up the endless gels. What would you recommend that's easy to digest, easy to carry etc? Alex Scott Hamilton

A. It’s very common to want a savory snack to get away from endless sweet-flavored foods on the bike. 

You can go for something a little less sweet by making up jam or honey sandwiches which will be pretty easy to digest, or perhaps try some rice cakes and wrap them in foil. This is a favorite of elite cyclists and you can find a recipe from Dr Allen Lim (Garmin Cervelo team) online to make these combining sushi rice, egg and soy sauce (for sodium) with other savoury ingredients. 

Q. Can you give any advice on nutrition for long-distance events that run non-stop for several days, especially with regard to vitamin and nutrient intake and depletionJelly Bean

A. Multi-day events require a very different approach to fuelling, which would be tailored for the event in question taking into account the discipline, your body weight and composition, your individual tolerances and break time if you have any. 

Q. I will be competing in a 24-hour event at the end of July which will involve myself and a running partner seeing how many 10K laps we can do between us. 

After doing it last year, I felt the lack of correct nutrition throughout the event affected my performance. To add to the issue, I am a coeliac and have to follow a strict gluten-free diet and therefore all oat-based products are out too.

It needs to be pre-prepared food as you have less than an hour between each run with no cooking facilities apart from a camping stoveWayne Gimblett

A. Your fuelling plan will depend on how you are going to break up the laps between you, but an absolute definite recommendation is that you aim to take on 60-90g carbs per hour that you are actually running along with water and electrolytes. 

It is a good idea to work out your sweat rates before the event. How much fluid do you lose over an hour of running? Knowing this will allow you to hydrate effectively throughout, which will have a huge impact on performance. 

To do this weigh yourself unclothed before and after a one hour run at race pace. For each 0.1kg lost you need 100ml fluid next time you run, so if you lose 0.5 kg then your replacement need is 500ml per hour.   

Choose easy to digest carbohydrate foods and keep protein and fibre low so that you can digest food faster. White sushi rice is good basic staple and perhaps add some soy sauce for sodium. Keep it basic and catch up on your veggies after the race.  

Discover more great fuelling and recovery advice in our nutrition section. 

Lynn Clay is a nutrition expert from Maxifuel, the preferred endurance brand for those dedicated to training.


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Hi am starting the long road to the outlaw already training for a marathon and cycle a bit. My question is what is the best way to get the correct food balance and what should be my calorie intake as I'm concerned about putting weight back on.


Posted: 05/09/2013 at 20:22

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