When it comes to triathlon, nutrition really is the 4th discipline, often throwing in many challenges along the way when it comes to combining different sports in one session or race.
With Big Husky and Mooloolaba just around the corner our sports nutritionist, Marewa Sutherland, caught up with PURE Athlete, Felix Oates, to chat all things nutrition and the personal lessons he has learnt along the way.
The recent gains Felix has made have been clearly noticeable since the introduction of PURE Sports Nutrition products to support his training. “PURE was really where I started taking my nutrition a lot more seriously I think there was a lot of improvements I was able to make as an athlete through just having more of an idea of Sports Nutrition that I could be using through training and on the day. I really benefited from having that continuous supply of nutrition through the month’s training”. These adaptations have helped Felix grow confidence in his pre-race rituals such as stomaching high carb meals; “I think it's kind of like a psychological thing as well where if you can get a big feed in that works for your body in your stomach and your mind as well”. Felix focuses on hydrating with PURE Electrolyte Hydration Low carb, when not racing, to preload electrolytes and stay hydrated. This is also his go-to pre run hydration choice.
When it comes to race day nutrition the past few years have served as a steep learning curve for Felix who openly admits, when he started racing three years ago he would compete in an Olympic tri without fuelling at all. “Everything nutrition has been self-coached through trial and error”. Challenges include super intense stitch, which often arrived with cramp and severe fatigue or bonking as commonly known. Over compensating with water has also lead to some low sodium (hyponatraemia) symptoms, which can be a dangerous path to go down. As the body only has enough stores to adequately fuel the first 60 minutes of exercise, there is no chance of reaching your potential in an Olympic distance tri without taking on fluids and nutrition. Marewa adds "gut training in training is the first step to teaching your body to take on carbs and hydration, it’s really a case of knowing your race day aims and working backwards in training to teach your body to accept the nutrition that works for you".
Race week brings with it a high carb focus, as well as preloading on hydration. Race morning consists of coffee, oats with berries and low carb electrolytes. Felix has learnt the hard way the gap between breakfast and race start can be large so now includes a bar to snack on an hour out. Last but not least is a PURE Energy Gel for some last minute energy before the swim. "I never have an issue with taking PURE gels because the flavour, I absolutely love the flavour, that’s what attracted me to PURE in the first place. And the texture of the fluid gels was just the easiest way for me to get nutrition in”.
Felix runs a hydration system on his bike to sip on PURE Electrolyte Hydration a bit more concentrated than normal with 5 or 6 scoops per litre "I can drink gallons of that on the day knowing that my stomach is used to it because I drink it every day on training rides, using every day in my training has really got my body to a point where I'm comfortable taking on quite a lot of carbs in the build-up and on the day." Felix continues eating every 30 minutes “so if it's a two and a half hour effort I'll have a caffeinated fluid gel, one energy gel and half a bar”.
Marewa adds that caffeine actually takes a while to reach peak concentration so don’t save your caffeinated nutrition until last, get into it early on. “Each one of our gels contains 30mg of caffeine, so approx. 1/3 shot of coffee, which is not massive amounts for those used to caffeine”.
“When it comes to the run, rather than depending on course nutrition or water or Cola doesn't really go down that well for me, I know that I can slowly take sips of the PURE Electrolyte Hydration powder made up in water bottle (3 scoops per 750ml bottle), and I really think that was massive for my running and energy levels”. Felix includes caffeine early on in his nutrition plan and avoids during running to help keep the heart rate steady.
For Felix recovery consists of more PURE Electrolyte Hydration (and sneaky cold non-alcoholic beer), hydration is a big focus as food can often be a struggle in those early stages.
Felix reflects positively on his progress and knows that the more he practises and trials his nutrition the more improvement he will see.”I think I can push even more carbs. I feel like I'm on a journey to really continually push that number up”. Marewa notes there is pretty exciting science coming through in the carb area, hence Race Fuel’s 90g of carbohydrate per serving. “It’s really taking athletes to performance they haven’t experienced before”. Felix adds “I think it's interesting that all of my best results have come this year and I've probably done two thirds of the training, but I have been fuelling correctly and recovering much better, so I think I've found a better balance”.
Felix's last words... "I've been executing races better. I've been fueling my training better and that has to attribute for a lot of my progress I think."