We humans tend to grow stronger, faster and smarter. We always push our limits. As Bidemi Mark-Mordi says “The human spirit is like an elastic band. The more you stretch, the greater your capacity.” This is the literal moto for the triathlon athletes. Triathlon is basically an endurance activity or contest which consists of 3 different events namely swimming, cycling and long-distance running. Different types of triathlon contests exist depending on distance, such as Sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman and Ironman.
- A Sprint triathlon comprises of 750 m (0.465 miles) swim / 20 km (12.5 mi) bike / 5 km (3.1 mi) run.
- An Olympic distance triathlon consists of 1.5 km (0.93 mile) swim / 40km (25 mi) bike / 10 km (6.2 mi) run.
- A Half Ironman involves a 1.9 km(1.2 miles) swim / 90 km (56 mi) bike / 21.1 km (13.1 mi) run.
- A full Ironman includes of a 3.8 km (2.4 miles) swim / 180.2 km (112 mi) bike / 42.2 km (26.2 mi) run.
The Ironman triathlon is an ultra-endurance event that requires specific training and individually tailored nutritional practices. Andrew R. Getzin (2011) describes that ultra-endurance event means any event that lasts for approx. 5 hr or longer, in which the majority of nutrition comes from metabolism of lipid sources and exercise intensity averages 70% VO2max or less. In order to maximise performance, nutritional requirements must be fulfilled. The adequate nutrition ensures that the athlete keeps a desired pace while maintaining good health. Kruseman et al. (2005) found that 90% of ultramarathon runners feel that nutrition influences their overall performance. Carbohydrate store depletion and dehydration are the prime causes of fatigue, as well as hyponatremia (low sodium level in blood) has been highlighted as a major concern during such events. To prevent such situations nutritional requirements should be fulfilled like the consumption of both adequate fluids and electrolytes (pre and post competition) along with carbohydrate ingestion. Consuming these crucial nutrients are important for ultra-endurance events such as triathlons — Ironman.
PHYSIOLOGICAL DEMANDS AND NUTRITIONAL DEMANDS OF ULTRA-ENDURANCE SPORT - THE IRONMAN
Muscle glycogen and blood glucose are the most important substrates for the response muscle contraction (Romijn et al., 1993). Jeukendrup (2004) said that fatigue during prolonged exertion is often related with the depletion of muscle glycogen levels and reduced blood glucose concentrations and, thus it is important to maintain high pre-exercise muscle and liver glycogen concentrations for best performance.
In addition to depleting glycogen content, dehydration can also impair endurance performance (Sawka et al., 2007). Water loss in form of sweat occurs because there is the need to dissipate the heat generated during exercise. Thus, the nutritional challenge is to prevent major dehydration (>2–3%) and therefore help in the prevention of fatigue (Shirreffs, 2011). This recommendation is on point according to the most recent guidelines by the American College of Sports Medicine stating that dehydration of more than 2–3% of body weight should be averted but also notfied against drinking in excess with respect to the sweating rate (Sawka et al., 2007) to stop hyponatraemia.
DURING PRACTICE AND MAINTENANCE
In order to maintain bone density for an ultra-endurance activity like ironman we need certain nutrients like calcium, vitamin D3, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. According to Lappe, J. et.al (2008) sufficient vitamin D status is important for bone health and prevention of bone injury in athletes. Another study conducted in California stated that low or deficit vitamin D levels lead to fatty skeletal muscles (Vicente Gilsanz et.al. 2010). Ultra-endurance athletes who are looking to gain lean mass and reduce body fat percentage should ensure that they have an optimum intake of vitamin D so as to get an additional kick in achieving their fitness goal. Thus supplemental Vitamin D dosage like SN Vitamin D3 will be beneficial.
In ultra-endurance sports due to its intensity immediate inflammation can be observed (Kelly B. Jouris. 2011). To prevent this damage omega- 3 fatty acids help as they serve as the precursors to prostaglandins, which are powerful hormone-like substances that reduce inflammation and improve blood flow (Calder. 2006). SN Fish oil can be the best choice to get supplemental dosages for such scenarios as it contains EPA and DHA in the ratio of 3:2 which is the best balance for proper utilisation by the body. Apart from this, it also exhibits some other health benefits like helps in strengthening of bones, reduces inflammation, reduces the symptom of metabolic syndrome, better for vision, enhances sleep quality and improves skin health.
Never the less for ironman we also look after the gut health, as scientists refer to the gut as the second brain. In order to do that fibre is the best choice as it acts as a prebiotic (Glenn R. 2004). SN TRI FIBRE is the best fibre supplement available in the market. It contains 3 types of soluble fibres such as - Resistant Maltodextrin, Inulin and Partially Hydrolysed Guar Gum (16%- 1.28 gm ). No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives are added. Thus, regular consumption of this not only improves the gut health but also looks after the organs.
Hawley, Schabort, Noakes, & Dennis (1997) has summarised the effect of high-carbohydrate diet elevates muscle glycogen levels and increases exercise performance. It was suggested that super-compensated muscle glycogen levels can help improve performance (i.e. time required to complete a predetermined distance) as compared with low to normal glycogen (non-supercompensated) by 2–3% in events lasting more than 90 min. The amount of dietary carbohydrate required to promote glycogen loading in order to recover the loss of glycogen stores on a daily basis depends on the duration and intensity of the athlete’s exercise regime. These requirements can vary from around 5 to 12 g/kg/day depending on the athlete and their activity level.
CARBOHYDRATE INGESTION < 60 MIN BEFORE COMPETITION
Although according to Hargreaves, Hawley, & Jeukendrup (2004), the consumption of high-carbohydrate diet before workout as well as ingestion of carbohydrate meals 3–4 hr before exercising can reflect positively on the performance. Also it has been suggested that the intake of simple carbohydrates 30–60 min before exercise may negatively affect the performance (Foster, Costill, & Fink, 1979). Glucose (simple carbohydrate) ingestion of glucose(simple carbs) an hour before exercise can result in hyperglycaemia (excess level of glucose in the bloodstream) and hyperinsulinaemia (excess level of insulin in the bloodstream), it is often followed by a rapid decline in blood glucose levels 15–30 min after the intiation of exercise (Foster et al., 1979; Koivisto, Karonen, & Nikkila, 1981), this is referred to as reactive or rebound hypoglycaemia. The fall in blood glucose occurs because of an increased muscle glucose uptake along with a reduced liver glucose output. In addition, hyperinsulinaemia following simple carbohydrate ingestion inhibits lipolysis and fat oxidation (Foster et al., 1979; Koivisto et al., 1981) and it might lead to a rapid muscle glycogen depletion. Therefore, pre-exercise simple carbohydrate feedings before exercise can lead to an impaired performance. To resolve this problem combination of both simple and complex carbs will be beneficial.
Steadfast Nutrition is a premium sports nutrition company that has formulated such a unique composition of simple and complex carbohydrates named Carborance for ultra-endurance activities.
FLUID INGESTION BEFORE COMPETITION
Dehydration can affect negatively on the exercise performance therefore it is important to start exercising in a well-hydrated state. According to Sawka et al. (2007) while hydrating prior to exercise the individual should slowly drink beverages (eg carborance), for example, approx. 5–7 ml/kg body weight at least 4 hrs before the exercise. If an individual does not produce enough urine, or the urine is dark or highly concentrated, s/he should slowly drink more beverages, like another approx. 3–5 mL/kg about 2 h before the event.
The athletes who have difficulty drinking sufficient amounts of fluid during exercise or who tend to lose body water content at high rates (i.e. during exercise in hot conditions) may benefit from hyperhydration. According to Van Rosendal, Osborne, Fassett, & Coombes (2010) hyperhydration may help improve thermoregulation and exercise performance, especially in the hot weather. However, attempting to hyperhydrate with fluids that expand the extra and intracellular spaces (e.g. water and glycerol solutions) will greatly increase the risk of vomiting during competition (Latzka et al., 1998). There is a risk of hyperhydration leading to a substantial diluting and lowering of plasma sodium prior to exercise, thereby increasing the risk of hyponatraemia, if fluids are replaced aggressively during exercise (Montain, Cheuvront, & Sawka, 2006). The World Anti-Doping Agency has banned plasma expanders or hyper-hydrating agents like glycerol.
RECOMMENDATION FOR CARBOHYDRATE DURING ENDURANCE EVENTS
These guidelines are intended for serious athletes, exercising at a reasonable intensity (>4 kcal/min). If the (absolute) exercise intensity is below this, the figures for carbohydrate intake should be adjusted downwards.
- Source: Asker E. Jeukendrup (2011)
MAINTAINING FLUID BALANCE DURING EXERCISE
In order to prevent large fluid loss, it is advisable for endurance athletes to keep weighing themselves to assess fluid loss during training or racing and limit weight loss to 2–3% during exercise lasting more than 90 min. In the absence of proper planning accurate advice is difficult to predict, since there are differences between individuals, race distances, course profiles, and environmental conditions which will affect the planning. The combination of sodium and carbohydrate is widely recommended to enhance the absorption of water. Here SN Carborance is the best choice because along with simple carbs it also has sodium and chloride in a proper proportion. These electrolytes (sodium and chloride) help aid in absorption and transportation of nutrients, promote contraction and relaxation of muscles, and transmission of nerve signals.
AFTER COMPETITION - POST RACE RECOVERY
According to Sports Dietician Australia, recovery meals or snacks should contain carbohydrates to restore fuel, some protein for muscle recovery & development and plenty of fluids and electrolytes to replace sweat loss. A recovery meal or snack should be consumed soon after racing or training. Because of the length of the race and the intensity of the efforts, often athletes do not feel like eating soon after they finish the race. Half Ironman distance races typically have a recovery booth at the finish line that usually has fruit, yoghurt, ice-cream and some sports food items. Ironman distance races also have these along with some more savoury, warm options to choose from. As there is often an extended rest and recovery phase following a long-course triathlon, recovery is important but does not need to be rushed. After finishing the competition a small snack can be eaten followed by a more substantial option higher in protein.
In that scenario Steadfast Nutrition Power Protein or LIV Raw along with some carbohydrate rich foods like fruits, bread toast with jam or marmalades, jellies, cereal based granola bars, etc., will be helpful.
A number of studies showed that there is a high risk of muscle injury involved in ultra-endurance activities like Ironman (Cameron, 2008).
To recover from such muscle injuries one should consume night recovery protein such as Steadfast Nutrition MiCasein. Casein protein taken before bed helps prevent protein breakdown and extends the anabolic systems of the body. This slow releasing protein promotes the muscle protein synthesis and consequently prevents the muscle protein breakdown in the long duration of starvation.
To optimise ultra-endurance exercise like ironman, both before and during exercise intake of carbohydrates and fluids play an important role. Starting with high muscle glycogen concentrations and always being well hydrated is important, which can be achieved by high carbohydrate (simple and complex) consumption and adequate drinking. An individualised nutritional strategy can be developed based on athlete’s requirements. Ultra-endurance athletes should attempt to minimise dehydration and limit body mass loss through sweating to 2–3% of body mass. Other issues in ironman include gastrointestinal problems, which are highly individual but can be minimised by taking certain nutritional precautions.
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