AF race strategy: Ironman nutrition plan

How I’m going to fuel my way across the finish line


Nutrition and hydration play a huge role in your performance on race day – especially if your race entails 140.6 miles of swimming, cycling and running.

So it’s crucial to nail down a nutrition plan that’ll fit your specific needs.

There’s a ton of nutrition info on the internet, at the bike shop and from other athletes.

Whittling it all down can be tough, especially when the line between genuine advice and methodical marketing has grown so blurry.

I don’t consider myself an expert on nutrition, and I haven’t received professional training or guidance on how to properly fuel during exercise.

However, after a couple years doing triathlon, and many hours reading books (like The Paleo Diet for Athletes and currently The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and online articles (like this excellent post on Endurance Corner) I’ve developed a critical and objective eye for food, and feel confident in the approach I’ve outlined to fuel me through Ironman Arizona.

Read on to see a breakdown of my nutrition plan for the race – now less than a month away!

I’ve broken down my plan into five sections: Pre-race, Swim, Bike, Run and Post-race. The outline is written as a reminder note to myself. Every athlete is different, and what works for me may not be right for you.

So keep in mind that I’m not telling you to do all these things below. I just hope this list gives you some ideas for your own nutrition plan.

Plus, I want you to tell me what you think of it, and let me know if you see any glaring mistakes only an idiot would make.

And we’re off.

Pre-race: Eat like you normally do prior to training

  • Consume healthy, real food in the days leading up to the race. Actually, you should be doing this everyday, race or no race.
  • The day before the race, make sure you eat lots of veggies and drink lots of water. Maybe even add a couple extra pinches of salt to your food.
  • Race-day morning meal, a few hours before the race: banana, applesauce, leftover veggies, almonds and some protein powder or hard-boiled eggs.
  • Hydrate comfortably with water or sports drink in the hours leading up to the start.

Swim: Try not to drink too much water from Tempe Town Lake

Custom zip-tied aero bar water bottle holder: reduces drag and shows you’re cheap frugal

Bike: A 5.5-hour meal on wheels

  • You should be getting the majority of your calories for the day, on the bike.
  • Consume at least 400 calories per hour, in the form of Accelerade sports drink, (I like Accelerade because it has protein, sodium and the fluid is easy to digest), using the following technique:
    • Carry three 20oz. water bottles with you on the bike: two behind the saddle, one on the aero bars (as shown above).
    • Fill each bottle with a concentrated solution of water + seven scoops of Accelerade (1 scoop = 120 calories).
    • Put a fourth disposable water bottle in your back pocket, to be replaced at aid stations.
    • Every ten minutes: drink one mouthful of Accelerade mix with 3 mouthfuls of water.
    • However, in the first 20 minutes out of Transition 1, only drink water.
  • Total: Over 2,400 calories and 4,200mg of sodium on the bike.
  • Reward yourself with a banana at transition. Mmmmm

Run: Take it easy, and fuel up early

  • Drink 200 calories of sports drink (1 water bottle, 2 scoops) in the first 20 minutes.
  • For the rest of the run, consume 200 calories an hour (2 gels or a 16oz sports drink)
  • Keep a water bottle with you for water refills at aid stations

Post-race: Bask in your glory

  • Have a victory banana, and chug your recovery drink (orange juice, protein powder, glucose powder and salt) within 30 minutes of crossing the finish line.
  • Eat dinner, drink a beer.

There you have it: my Ironman Arizona race-day nutrition plan.

Let me know what you think of it in the comments!

– Live every day –


  • Cecily

    Great post! I used some of these pointers on my ride today and am really happy with how it worked out. I’ve been worrying that my accelerade approach on the bike was going to leave me stopping to refuel a bunch. Just going with the concentrated mix works so well!

    • adamsfuller

      Mmmmm yes. I’ve been testing out the concentrated mix approach over the past two weeks and it’s worked well. Hopefully the only time I’ll have to stop on the bike is to put on sunscreen. Also, I just tried the fruit punch flavored Accelerade for the first time…so good.