Ironman Nutrition - Knowing what your body needs
Ironman Nutrition - Knowing what your body needs

Ironman Nutrition – Knowing what your body needs

Ironman Nutrition - Knowing what your body needs

Today on The Kona Edge, we touch base with Tim Rea and chat about his Ironman nutrition. He shares why he splits his hydration and calories into 2 different sources, rather than relying on gels or bars.

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BRAD BROWN: Welcome onto this edition of The Kona Edge. Time to chat some Ironman nutrition now. We head back to Australia to catch up with Tim Rea

Tim, welcome back. We haven’t touched on nutrition at all in our previous chats. It’s quite an important part if you want to be competitive as an age grouper, or as a pro. You’re making that step up now. Your philosophy when it comes to nutrition, talk to me about the general stuff. Not necessarily the racing. How do you approach things from a nutritional point of view, generally?

Nutrition philosophy as the 4th discipline

TIM REA: Thanks Brad for having me back on. Nutrition is something I’ve always been inquisitive about. If something might be working for me but is there something better? And if you look at it, and as the distance grows in triathlon and up to Ironman, it’s the 4th discipline. You can have guys who are out on a tear in a race at Kona and the next minute they’re just buckled over and throwing up. They don’t know what’s going on, the heat gets to them. Their nutrition is not staying down and it ultimately ruins races.

On a day to day basis with my training, at times it’s not something I focus heavily on. And in saying that I have, in racing and in training, focused on one main principle.

Split your Ironman nutrition

I split up my hydration and my calories into 2 different sources. And I do this for a variety of reasons. When I’m training, I find  I can get by with, especially when you’re going out on longer rides, and you’ve got time to fuel between sessions. That’s when I can get in proper food which I’ll much rather have than relying on gels or bars and stuff which I don’t like.

Then during my sessions and longer rides, whether it’s swims, in between runs, I get in the basic hydration for me. It is quite low in calories and just does its job of hydrating the body. Getting the salt levels back up. That’s a strategy that I use in racing as well. I do it for the reason if I go out on a 70.3, I might have 2 bottles of fluid mixed up to what I know that I need the consistency to be. I’ll drink accordingly to what the weather conditions are.

So, I’ve raced in Hawaii as I’ve said in one of the earlier podcasts, and the 70.3 there I got through 3 to 4 bottles. But in the same amount of riding same time and distance, I’ve raced at Busselton earlier last year. And in a 90km ride I got through three quarters of one bottle. And that was varying on how hot it was. Busselton was quite cool. I think the average temperature was 8 or 9 degrees and I certainly wasn’t sweating. So, I didn’t want to overload my body with fluid.

Know what your body needs with your Ironman nutrition

That’s something now that I know I can drink according to how much I’m sweating. Because if I don’t need to get the extra fluid in, I don’t. But I’m not losing calories. And then in a racing strategy I simply just eat according to what I know I can. I know in a 70.3 whether it’s in 35 degrees or 10 degrees, I know I’m getting off the bike having taken in the same number of calories and it’s going to usually set me up in the same condition and position for hopefully a good run ahead.

BRAD BROWN:  That’s quite interesting. Often when I’ve chatted to age groupers, they’re very set about how much they eat and how much they drink. I find it interesting that you split the 2. You need to be fluid. You’ve got to, not necessarily have a plan B, but you’ve got to be able to change things on the fly.

TIM REA: Yes. In a 70.3 I’ll go in and unless it’s over mid to high 30’s, I’ll drop my calorie intake slightly, maybe by 5-minutes. But now in a 70.3, anywhere up to that temperature I am having a gel every 20-minutes on the bike. That’s something I’ve practised and I know that my stomach can tolerate.

Ironman nutrition needs change with racing conditions

So, I know if I’m getting off the bike anywhere around 2:05 or 2:15, I’m going to have had the same number of calories go in, whatever the conditions are. I know I’m going to be getting off fuelled to the max, that I know I can be. And then like I said, I’ve drunk the amount of sodium and I’ve hydrated to a point where I’ve let the race conditions dictate how much. Everyone has had that feeling. Where you get off and you go for a run and you sort of have that extra fluid gushing around in your gut. It’s something, for me, that’s a massive influence and I can’t run like that. It’s something that I’ve had to work at and I now only drink when I must. Not to a point where I hold back.

Like I said earlier, at Busselton 90km, I think I was on the bike just under 2:10 and I had three quarters of the bottle. If you put that down, it was only about 450ml over 90km.

Keep to your Ironman nutrition training

When you break that down it’s not much going in but obviously as it was so cold, I wasn’t sweating out and losing salt. I made a conscious decision during the race to stick to it and I was quite worried at one point that I hadn’t drunk nearly anything. But I stuck to my guns in the race and by the time I got to the run in that race particularly, I had a great run off the bike. And it was something that reinforced that decision that you’ve got to stick to what you know and you shouldn’t be changing and experimenting with things on race day.

BRAD BROWN:  What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made nutrition wise, and what have you learnt from it?

TIM REA: To be honest, racing I haven’t made a lot of nutrition mistakes. I’ve always been one to practice and try things in training. I remember early going out on a couple of longer rides on Saturdays where I was doing intervals and leading up to races. I’d practiced taking gels. It might sound stupid, but originally in races, I was taking gels every half an hour.

Will more gels boost your Ironman performance?

I remember a couple there I’d have one at half an hour, then an hour, hour and a half, two hours. So, I’d be having 4 gels and I’d be getting off the bike in 20-minutes or 25-minutes. This was when I got stuck when I first started. Then I’d think I will hold off having that 5th gel because it might not sit right in my gut. I was getting off the bike with 4 heavily diluted gels. Having 4 heavily diluted gels and getting off the bike, it could be anywhere getting in 7 gels which made that difference. Work it out per gel, and the high concentrated gels as opposed to a watered-down gel.

That’s getting off the bike with anywhere of 500 to 600 calories difference leading into a high paced half marathon. That’s got to count for something.

BRAD BROWN:  Brilliant stuff. Well Tim, thank you so much for joining us here on The Kona Edge today. Much appreciated. I look forward to following your progress in Miami and beyond and see how you go in the pro ranks with all the 70.3 that you’ve got planned. We look forward to catching up soon. Thanks for your time and for sharing your journey with us here on The Kona Edge.

TIM REA: No worries. Thanks for having me on. It’s been great to talk and get some info out. Thank you.

About Us

Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).

Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.

He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.


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