Ask the Experts: Triathlon Nutrition with Lynn Clay

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



Cycling, nutrition, triathlon

Lynn Clay from Maxifuel is a sports scientist, nutrition consultant and freelance journalist with eight years' experience in the nutrition industry. She’s a former AAA gold medallist runner, a keen cyclist and she’s competing in Ironman Austria this summer.

Lynn joined us to answer your nutrition posers to get you on the right track this season. 

Read the whole forum debate

Q. I find when I've had a particularly hard training session the previous evening, I feel a lot hungrier than usual the next day. Are there any particular groups of foods I should be eating that day to keep hunger pangs at bay? I tend to eat too much to satisfy the hunger, which defeats the purpose of the training in the first place. Tony Rafferty

A. It's common for triathletes to battle with hunger due to the heavy demands on energy. Eating small regular meals across the day rather than three large meals can help with energy balance, whilst curbing cravings. 

Although you do need to replace carbohydrates, do it by choosing a low glycemic energy source in each meal or snack. Combine it with a protein rich food and some salad, fruit or vegetables and that will slow down the rate the carbohydrates are released and fill you up. (Protein and fibre are both great at filling us up.) Do this two hours before and immediately after a hard evening workout and eat breakfast the following day as soon as you wake.

Eating every two to three hours and combining foods in this way should keep your appetite in check. 

Q. My blood sugar levels frequently drop around about the five-mile mark when running. The feeling is awful and I can't carry on. Usually my pre-run meal would be poached eggs on brown toast. I’ve now got a psychological fear and it's ruining my training. Chris Henry

A. I recommend you switch to a pre-run meal that’s easier to digest than your current choice. Choose something like porridge, which will provide a more stable energy release. You should also look to feed your run, aiming for up to 1g of carbohydrate intake per kilogram you weigh, per hour of running, as this will keep your energy levels up and allow you to maintain pace past the five-mile mark.

Your ability to digest carbs as you run will dictate what level works for you but ideally aim for between 30-60g per hour. This is easy to achieve choosing gels. I like to space mine across the hour, taking one every 30 minutes of running (Maxifuel Viper Active Gels contain 25g carbs per gel) and washing it down with 250-300ml of water, which I carry on a running belt. This fuelling plan should help you avoid the dreaded dip.

Q. I am doing my seventh Ironman this year and hopefully looking for a slightly better time than 'just finish'. Over the last few sessions, especially the long bike sessions, the nutrition has become more of an issue and I realise I may need to up the carb intake. I weigh roughly 150lbs and the event is sponsored by High5. I have no problem with taking on board gels or sports drinks but I am a little concerned about overdoing it and bringing on any GI issues. What would you recommend as a good source per hour over the bike leg?  M Eldy

A. I recommend you aim to take on up to 68g carbohydrate per hour (1g per kilo) if you can usually tolerate this amount. 

At the beginning of the bike leg you may wish to achieve some of this from bars, but the bulk of it should come from your drink as this will supply fluid too and be easier to digest. If you mix a 750ml bottle with 45 grams of carbs you can then aim to take on this each hour, plus additional carbs from bars (and additional water if your sweat rate is higher than this) in the first half of the bike leg. Take on gels in the second half as these are easier to digest later on in the race. 

Having said that, High5 provide a drink which is a mix of glucose and fructose, so you may be able to go slightly higher than 68g per hour. I would experiment by starting at 60g per hour and working upwards in training (to 90g if you get that far) to see what you tolerate. You will then find the maximum you can tolerate without GI issues. 

The key is keeping your fluid and carbohydrate in balance so you are ingesting carbs in a 6-8 per cent solution (45-60g per 750ml water). Bear in mind that as exercise intensity or duration increase, your ability to digest carbohydrates will reduce. This may mean that you are taking on 80g in the first hour, 75g in the second, 70g in the third etc. If you are racing in the heat then this will reduce your ability to digest carbohydrates further. 

Q. After my long runs (18-22miles), I tend to spend the rest of the day/evening stuffing my face with literally anything, how detrimental is this to my training? Jimmy F

A. You certainly need to replace calories and particularly refill your glycogen stores after training but what you choose to refuel on can impact recovery and health. There is no harm in taking in a few sugars, treating yourself to confectionary or the odd cake in this scenario, it will simply aid refueling.

Ideally however, you should aim for 80 per cent of your calories to be from 'healthy' sources, selecting lean proteins, low glycemic (wholegrain) carbohydrates, healthy fats and lots of fruit and vegetables. There is evidence to suggest that eating a wholefood rich diet speeds the recovery process by reducing the inflammatory effect that sugars can have on the body.

I would suggest you get some fast digesting calories into your body immediately after your run (1g carbohydrate per kilogram you weigh, plus 10-20g protein). You should then time your next meal approximately one hour later and graze eating healthy meals or snacks every two to three hours from that point throughout the day. This will reduce that ravenous feeling you might be experiencing.

On the next page: Lynn reveals the ideal protein intake and how to find the best balance between optimum nutrition and calorie counting. 



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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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