Nutrition (especially on the bike)

Hi all,

Given my cycling experience is pretty low prior to starting this journey (to say the least) and the fact that I've got the Vit coming up in a couple of months and have entered IMR next year with the rest of you motley crew, I was wondering what people tend to use for nutrition in longer races, particularly on the bike.

This has probably been covered in threads gone by but was struggling to find anything coherent in one place.  I know everyone is different and I need to find out what suits me best but at the moment my nutrition is a bit hit and miss at the best with no particular structure so thought I'd see what others do as I'm not sure my scattergun approach is going to work with going long.

Am wondering in particular things like how much you drink per hour, what you eat (bars, gels, clif shots, nuun tablets etc), how many calories per hour, etc.


  • Depends on so many factors, but I just keep in the back of my mind a 200 kcals/hour figure.
  • I find I can eat bars on the bike - I can't when running though- you need to use the years training to see what works for you.

    I usually pour 9 gels or so into a waterbottle and dilute so that its palatable - then no worries about having to mess opening them. That's about 900 calories there. Two or three power bars give you another 600-900 calories too.

    Coach gordo says 300 to 750 calories per hour - depending on weight and training - so that would be the bare minimum.

    Everyones different though - so you need to try it. Oh and powershots melt into one huge mass in the german sunshine. Pah !
  • I'm starting to use wine gums and sis bars the way furward, with sports drink type stuff as well.
  • Jelly babies, snickers and sports drink - the occasional nanana work for me. Try to replicate race fuel in training so your bod doesn't get too shocked on the day. image

    Think about what, but also when. A good tip is to use a beeping stopwatch or similar to ensure you eat and drink regularly. You need to practice this in training to develop a routine and learn not to lose the fuelling rhythm if the beeper coincides with hills or traffic etc. image

  • I second all of that except for snickers, choc doesn't do well in long hot sunshine! Jelly babies are great for a quick sugar hit. I also like gingerbread for a change from all the gels, bars etc. and it has the added benefit of being anti-emetic, so a good thing to eat if you get nausea. I sip my drinks every 15 mins and eat every half-hour, but it is very individual, you need to try out all sorts of things during training till you find what suits you. One thing all experts agree on though - only drink water for the first 20 mins on your bike, no eating, your stomach needs to settle after the swim. Trial and error is the only way, as nobody can take in enough calories to replace what you will use up during the race. I can eat anything on the bike, once out on the run I have to switch to liquids only, I can't take solids while running - and unlike others I cannot eat salt sticks, pretzels or other dry cracker-type stuff, tried many times, I chew and chew but just can't swallow it down.
  • On the bike I aim to eat something every 40 minutes.  Something is usually a gel or half an energy bar/Nakd bar/Trek bar.  I tend to stick with SIS gels as no extra water needed.  Drink at 20 minute intervals (isotonic with electrolytes) or more frequent if warmer (I do need to get better at this).  This should be about 200-250 cals per hour.  I tend to stop the solids for the later stages of the ride as I don't digest well at race pace (if I slack off I get away with more solids).  I will take nanas from aid stations (easily digested and good source of potassium).

    My nutrition does then tend to go to cock on the run (I've not found a comfortable way to carry 6+ SIS for IM distances).  Check where the aid stations are and what is available.

  • I'm doing the Vit and IMR too... but i'm as inexperienced as you are!

    My routine so far has been an SIS gel every 20mins (I like the orange ones), and water, with High5 electrolyte tabs in it.... seems to work for me.... although on a longer ride, carrying lots of gels is 'interesting'.... I may well try the versions provided by IMR after the vit to see if I can avoid having to carry 20+ gels!!!!

    lets be honest.... its all prep for an Ironman on my 100th birthday
  • You can buy bottles of gel that you can decant into a bike bottle.
  • Some bars are really sticky. Would suggest trying to eat them while you have a helmet on.....   after you've tested your wetsuit in the shower. image
  • Thanks guys - all really useful stuff.

    I know what you mean about carrying loads of gels on the run FF as for stand-alone marathons I have carried 6 gels with me and it is a pain in the arse.

    Like the idea of having gels diluted in a water bottle as I get covered in sticky mess even when use them running so have no idea what it would be like while riding! Mister W - where can you get gels in a bottle as that sounds like a plan (have only seen them in individual sachets so far.

    So for drinks, do people just tend to use water and then drop an electrolyte tablet in it (eg High5 or Nunn - no idea what the difference is!) rather than a ready made sports drink?

  • Oh yeah - and like the idea of bars as I generally get bored of the gels pretty quickly...
  • My plan for Vit is to have water with an electroyte tablet or two in one (can't remember the brand but it's neutral flavoured so not as sweet) and Hi-5 in the other.
  • image Been using hi-5 tables and powder for the drink and can't stand the stuff it taste like *cencered* image Whats the one you are using that's neutral?
  • Hi Mandel,

    Everyone does something different. I found actual IMs easier than training as people keep giving you stuff......  This was something I sent to RC when he asked about IMD last week

    I use a concentrated bottle of sports drink (*6), - I squidge a 1/6 bottle into the aero, and fill up with water.  I go through a bottle of sports drink per hour.  I use Torq lime - not too sweet....)

    I also have a water bottle on the go, with nuun/zero bottles as well - (3-4 over an IM bike ride).  Practice getting the tabs into a water bottle while on the move.  ps...   Don't dump full ones at the next aid station!!!!   Nuun was the orriginal as is great.  High5 Zero is High 5 version, and is also good - the orangeCherry flavour is lovely.  I use the nuun/zero stuff with gels / bars, and prefer it to water as I sweat a lot and have really suffered in the heat before.

    As for nutrition... on the bike the plan was 

    • first 20 mins - just drink water, (per gordo).   settles the stomach.
    • 20 mins - gell or chewey gell thing, or maybe a banana
    • 40 mins  - gel
    • 60 mins - salt tab, (I used saltstick) if its hot.
    • 60 mins - torq bar, (banana flavour).
    • then repeat.

    I use a bento box with 4 bars, 6 gels ish, and another 4 gels banded together in my tri top pocket, and a packet of zipvit black cherry chews.   I was aiming for 4-500 cals per hour.

    I had the salt tabs in a couple of bank coin bags, (stops water disolving them.....).  I added these a week before IMDE when the temps looked to be > 30 degrees.

    I grabbed water at the aid stations and did the torq shuffle.  I also grabbed 1-2 bannana halves at every aid station, as well as some gels etc well ahead of when I started to run low.

    My stomach felt a little uncomfortable now and again - was mostly volume / being tucked in a aero position.  It went away.

    For training I used some bars / gels on 1 full race sim ride.  That got pretty expensive to do regulalrly so for most training rides I used 1 bar and 1 gel per hour, supplemented with maltloaf, bananas, apples, jam sandwhiches  etc etc.

  • The gel I use (that's available in a bottle) is Agisko.  I bought mine from Epic Cycles but if you go onto the company's website they have a list of shops that stock it.
  • Thanks OC - that's great info and just the sort of thign I was after.

    Thanks MW too - will check it out as I have issues opening the gels on a run let alone on the bike... 

  • Hi Mandel

    Just to add a couple of points which I hope that you find helpful.

    Quite a few people have mentioned drinking water, if you can stomach it, I would go as far as to say that drinking water is never the best option in a race in hot climate. You have already lost and will be losing elactrolytes as you sweat and these need to be replaced as soon as possible so I think that a drink containing electrolytes (as well as Carbohydrate) would be the best thing.

     Also, the advice on kcals per hour is really useful, but I would build on that and suggest that it is slightly more spcific to talk in grams of Carbohydrate per min and you dont want more than around 75g per hour (o just 60g is using single carb gels i.e. just glucose).

    Below is a section on IM Nutrition that I wrote recently which I hope helps. Also, (although the site is down at the moment so I cant provide a link, if you want to have a look at  the website 'TZero Triathlon', you'll find some other good articles in the 'blog' section.

     Hope that that helps


    DURING COMPETITIONSwim – Some ironman races will have fuelling stations on the swim course, for top athletes completing the swim in around an hour, there is little need to take onboard any CHO, however, it may be useful to take advantage of fluid offered around the half way point. For competitors taking longer than an hour to complete the 3.8km swim, CHO gels can be stored in the sleeve of a wetsuit, or the leg of a Trisuit and should be taken from 45-60mins into the race and repeated to allow the consumption of around 1g/min.Bike – The bike offers the easiest opportunity to refuel and rehydrate. However, caution must be taken to ensure that triathletes do not take on board too much fluid. Studies now show that weight loss is a poor indicator of hydration levels and that this is particularly marked in Ironman competitors, as fat usage, glycogen and water stored with glycogen have been show to be accountable for much for the 2.5kg average loss in weight observed. Research shows that drinking in the range of 400-800mls/hr is enough to maintain hydration, even in the presence of BW loss. As has been previously stated, CHO expenditure cannot be met by intake, however, by combining types of CHO an athlete has been show to increase the amount of energy that can be stored. The combination of Glucose and Fructose (plus possibly Sucrose), in the form of gels, drinks and food may allow an athlete to oxidise up to 1.2g/min, a 21% improvement on Glucose alone (Many Ironman athletes will achieve this by mixing 18-20 CHO Gels in a drinks bottle with some water). However, this finding was seen to ‘level off’ after around 120mins into the race and so this strategy may only be useful for the first  few hours of the race, after which an athlete may wish to change strategy to 60g/hr of a single type of CHO to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal related problems.Run – By 6 hours into the race CHO stores will be almost completely depleted and the body will be utilising Fat as its major energy store, for this reason although, CHO can still be consumed, it may be that that emphasis should again be placed on maintaining hydration by the previously mentioned method. 
  • Interested in this thread as I'm doing the vit too, and my hydration/fuel intake ws very poor on Bala bike leg.

    One question... Anyone got any suggestions as to why I get hiccups on the bike?  It's definately not due to over drinking.  My only thoughs so far are maybe gulping air when I drink? Or someone suggested that it may be the position I'm in when I drink & I should make myself more upright to drink?  Anyone care to agree/disagree/offer alternative?

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