Saturday, October 18, 2014

Triathlon (almost) Tuesday: My IM Nutrition Plan

A no-frills post today. This will probably only be interesting to someone training for an Ironman. Ironman nutrition is just as important (if not more so) than your physical fitness. I’m pretty much a control freak/obsessive planner, so I’ve spent a lot of time working out my nutrition.

Bike – I try to get between 350-400 calories in an hour
Run – I try to get in 200-250 calories an hour

I prefer to drink most of my calories on the bike (just easier for me). I’ve found two products that let me do that:

1) A combo of EFS Liquid Shot and EFS Drink, OR
2) Hammer Perpetuem

EFS vs. Perpetuem

Basically I make a super strong concentrated bottle. With the Hammer Perpetuem I was able to use 6 scoops (800 calories). With the EFS combo I used 2.5 Liquid Shot bottles (1000 calories) and 2 scoops EFS drink (200 calories) for a total of 1200 calories per bottle. All are mixed with water to the top of my bottle.

EFS vs. Perpetuem
4-hour bottle
My bottle is marked and I make sure I am at the end of each line by the end of each hour. That way I know I am getting the 200 calories per hour with Perpetuem or 300 calories per hour with EFS.
Perpeteum has protein and EFS has amino acids (what the protein breaks down into) which is needed for longer (3+ hour) workouts. But EFS also includes electrolytes, so I don’t have to worry about any salt pills or electrolyte pills when using EFS.

Honestly, I’ve liked both. I like the taste of the Perpetuem more. But like the electrolytes in EFS, so I will using EFS in IMFL (EFS costs more than Hammer’s Perpetuem, if that’s a factor for you). And just so you know, you are filling these bottles about 2/3 full with powder/gooey stuff, then just adding whatever room is left for water. It is very strong tasting, and gives you no hydration value whatsoever.

EFS vs. Perpetuem
I know exactly how many calories are in each bag
The liquid nutrition bottles get me either 200 (Perpetuem) or 300 (EFS) calories/hour. To get the other calories I need, I bring along food broken up into portions. I’ve used: Stinger Waffles, pretzels, Combos pretzels, BBQ chips and pieces of a Payday bar. I have four snack baggies with the items that give me the exact calories I’m looking for each hour. I carry them in my back jersey pockets. (Btw, those baggies are snack size, cut in half and then taped down the open side. Zipper part still works great)

So if my EFS bottle gives me 300 calories per hour, I want to get another 50-100 calories. In one baggie I would have: ¼ Payday bar (60 calories), and 3 Combos Pretzels (36 calories). So if I eat all that, I know I am getting nearly another 100 calories.  For the Perpetuem bottle, I need 150-200 calories worth of food per baggie. 

My Garmin alarm is set for every 15 minutes. I don’t always take a sip or eat something that exact moment, but it just keeps me from zoning out and missing an hour of nutrition.

For IMFL I've decided to use EFS. It gets me the electrolytes and seems to be gentler on my stomach.  But I also think I would be fine on the Perpetuem

At Bike Special Needs I have:
1) Another pre-mixed nutrition bottle (in a gallon zip lock bag between two frozen water bottles to help keep it cold)
2) Half a ham sandwich (in my practices I’ve only taken a bite or two of it)
3) Red Bull (took a few sips for caffeine)
4) Four more baggies of my food supplements

I used to eat Shot Bloks on my runs. That has worked well for me for a number of years. They give me gas a little, but no big deal. I can do gels too, especially the salted caramel flavor (YUM!!) or any Hammer gels.

But the last few long runs I’ve carried an EFS Liquid Shot flask rather than gels or chews. It’s done well for me so far: no GI issues.  I’ll be using that in IMFL. One sip every 15 minutes or at the top of each mile (every 11-12 minutes) if needed. I’ll also take other nutrition from the course. Basically, anything that looks good.

1) I’m cutting out all caffeine 10-14 days before the race. That way, when I have caffeine on the race (and oh, I plan to have COPIOUS amounts of caffeine on the race) it will do its job better: help me absorb nutrients, plus help me feel less like death.

2) From former IMer: “The race really doesn't start until mile 70 of the bike. If you haven't done nutrition properly to that point you are in practice exactly what you're going to do on the bike in your training and force yourself to eat and hydrate even if you don't feel like it. Once you get to the run (especially the 2nd half) do what your body tells you. I was eating everything in my sight after mile 15 and it made my body feel good (cookies, pretzels, chicken broth, coke)”

3) Goes with what is said above: You can’t make good, logical decisions after a certain number of hours of constant physical exertion. For me, that’s about 6 hours. Therefore I’m trying to have a plan, so I don’t have to make decisions when my logic is failing me. I just need to hear my alarm and know it’s time to take in more nutrition and/or hydration or whatever.

4) If I’m feeling really low (“OMG there’s no way I can finish this race”) that is a low blood sugar issue. I need to get calories in my body, and those feelings will go away.

5) Concentrate on the mile you’re in.

Nutrition update after Ironman Florida 2014:
I ended up with too much nutrition for both the bike and run (although I'd much rather have too much than not enough). For the first half of the bike, I pretty much followed EFS/baggies plan above (so about 400 calories an hour). I traded everything out at special needs (new bottle, new baggies -- remember there is no water at Special Needs, so pre-mix ahead of time). For the last three hours of the bike, I couldn't be bothered to open my baggies (also more difficult because I was wearing gloves), so just used the EFS drink mix. I never felt hungry, but I never felt slushy either.  I didn't use any of the nutrition from the course on the bike, just water.

For the run, I had a EFS Liquid Shot (400 calories) in my run belt and another one in Special Needs. I did totally finish one, and grabbed the one from SN, but didn't finish that one. On the course I took in whatever looked good at the time, but was careful never to eat more than a bite or two at each aid station. (At any given time I partook in: grapes, pretzels, chips, chicken broth, coke). Neither had any digestion problems or emergency trips to the porta-potty. I would definitely use EFS again in an Ironman.

I wished I had more Advil and/or Tylenol throughout the race. I had two (alternating) of each waiting at SN needs/transition, but I wish I'd had double that. At least. An aid station at mile 18 had ibuprofen. Saved me from a very painful last six miles.

Full race report is here.


  1. This IM nutrition-focused post is super helpful! I'm racing my 1st IM in Cozumel at the end of the month and am trying to finalize my nutrition strategy. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks! I updated to include the actual race.