How to Survive an Ironman Triathlon Training Camp

If you have signed up for an Ironman Triathlon this year one of the best things you can do for both your fitness and mental readiness is get to a training camp. Along with increased knowledge and fitness, you will learn what is my opinion the most important part of high volume training: how to properly fuel.

That’s right, your FUEL is the most important component of your Ironman training for both high volume weeks as well as race day.  All the race wheels, “fast” bikes, GPS watches and shiny race kits won’t help you meet your training or race goal if you don’t have any fuel in the tank to push the engine.

There are several things to consider when planning your training camp nutrition…

First, what type of foods will you eat at camp to maximize recovery?  During a normal training week I personally choose and recommend a lower carbohydrate diet to optimize fat metabolism, but for Ironman Camp it’s a bit different.  I recommend simple carbohydrates like instant oatmeal, white rice, sweet potatoes w/o the skin, and fruits.  These are all things that can be premade and brought with you to camp if you are driving.

If flying I recommend hitting up a restaurant near the camp that serves rice and sweet potatoes, like a Thai restaurant, and ordering several containers.  Be sure to get a hotel room with a mini fridge to keep your foods from spoiling.

Although healthy fats are vital for recovery and repair you will want to avoid high fat foods as they slow down the absorption rate of carbohydrates.  If you are eating out during camp make sure you get your foods prepared with no oil. Mainly because most restaurant use lower quality oils or canola oil, both of which are very inflammatory and will impede recovery.

There are however a couple of fats that you can add that will increase absorption of nutrients as well as provide an anti-inflammatory effect.   Those are avocado and coconut oil.  Avocado helps improve the absorption of beta-carotene among other things, a powerful antioxidant and cellular protector.  Coconut oil is absorbed like a carbohydrate rather than a fat and enhances the absorption of all nutrients it is eaten with.

Now for supplements and training nutrition.  This is a short but very important list.

I recommend taking an amino acid supplement like MAP “Master Amino Acid Pattern” each hour during your training day to prevent muscular catabolism.  Keep them in a baggy or in an empty NUUN bottle.

Next, I take 12mg of Hawaiian Astaxanthan called “Bioastin”.  Bioastin helps to greatly mitigate damage caused by the heavy training load of camp.

Last would be a SuperGreens supplement from Living Fuel.  It’s always important to get your fruits and veggies in, and a super greens supplement is the perfect way to do that without the fiber to slow down absorption.

For fuel on the bike and run I recommend simple, yet clean carbohydrates like Bonk Breakers, Honey Stinger waffles and gels.  If you are feeling really saucy you can bake sweet potatoes, remove the skin, and eat out of a small baggy during the bike.  We typically recommend you take solid calories on the bike and liquid calories on the run.  Not that you couldn’t train for 7 hours 3-4 days in a row, but most athletes like the feeling of “eating” at some point.

The bike is the best time for that as it is difficult for your body to absorb solids on the run after you have been training hard for 5-6+ hours.  Let’s not forget about electrolytes.  I like to use NUUN tablets in my water bottle and also supplement with “salt stick” electrolytes for hot days.

What about protein?

Of course you need protein but the type and quality are very important.  Opt for wild fresh fish whenever possible as it is easily broken down and easier to digest over red meat and poultry.  You can definitely eat the latter two just be sure that you chew very well in order to aid in digestion.

Now let’s put it all together.  Below is an example day that I would repeat throughout the camp for simplicity and max recovery. 

Breakfast: Preferably 2hrs before the day starts

–       1 cup cooked oatmeal (cooked in water)

–       1 banana

–       1Tsp raw unfiltered honey

–       1Tbsp almond butter or ½  scoop plant based protein like Life’s Basics or Vega Sport

–       1Tsp Cinnamon

–       salt to taste

–       drink 16oz of water with breakfast

During Training: This can be altered according to gender and weight

–       during the bike take up to 300 calories per hour in the way of bonk breakers, honey stinger waffles or honey stinger chews.

–       Take 4-5 MAP per hour

–       2 NUUN tablets in each water bottle

–       1-3 salt stick electrolytes per hour

–       32-40oz of water per hour.  This can be adjusted based on your sweat rate

–       during the run switch nutrition to honey stinger gels for easier digestion

After Training:

–       1-2 cups white rice w/1/2 cup pineapple and 1Tbsp coconut oil mixed in.  Add sea salt for minerals and drink 1 scoop plant based protein in 10oz water.

OR

–       1 large sweet potato w/o skin, with 1 cup white rice all mixed together with 1Tbsp coconut oil and sea salt.  Add the same protein drink.

About 90 minutes after 1st feeding:

–       1-2 cups pasta

–       1-2 servings marinara sauce (preferably organic)

–       ¼ avocado

–       4-6oz wild salmon or white fish

–       optional: small piece 80% or darker, dark chocolate

–       16oz water

–       1 serving Biosatin

–       1 serving Super Greens

Last meal:

–       I go back to white rice, 1 cup, or 1 medium baked potato w/o skin

–       4-5 oz of fish

–       ¼ avocado

–       1Tbsp coconut oil (yes you CAN bring this to any restaurant)

Remember, your goal during camp is replenishing nutrients for peak performance each day.  The amount of each meal can/should be adjusted dependent upon your weight and gender as well as training calories and supplements.

For more information about training camp nutrition or to sign up for an Ironman or Ironman 70.3 training camp contact Coach Mo at [email protected].