Triathlons demand peak physical performance, and one crucial aspect of success is proper nutrition. Among the three disciplines—swimming, cycling, and running—cycling presents a unique opportunity to refuel and sustain energy levels. In this blog post, we'll delve into the best ways to eat and store food on the bike during a triathlon.
Choose the Right Nutrition:
Before exploring storage solutions, you have to decide what to eat. Opt for easily digestible, energy-dense foods such as energy gels, chews, bars, and sports drinks. These options provide a quick energy boost and are fairly easy to carry. Remember that different products can react differently for each person -- always try out nutrition in practice before using it in a race so you avoid any awful GI issues.
Megan's favorite nutrition brands: Maurten (everything they have), Untapped Maple, Skratch and whole foods such as fig bars and potatoes
AJ's favorite nutrition brand: Gu
If you're looking for something to fill you up a bit more, such as when you're racing a full-day race like an IRONMAN triathlon, you may want to consider adding some real or "whole" foods to your lineup. Some triathlete favorites include peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fig bars. Because these foods can be harder to digest, it's best to keep these for lower intensity days. And as always, practice, practice, practice.
Hydration is Key:
It doesn't matter how much you eat if you aren't drinking enough. Staying hydrated is critical. For most race efforts, consider mixing electrolyte tablets with your water to replenish essential minerals lost through sweating. Like food this is always best to test BEFORE race day.
For tri bikes, consider adding a front hydration unit to your aero bars to allow you to stay aero - even get more aero in some cases - and access hydration at all times. We particularly like the the Vision Metron Front Hydration System (taller with integrated mount) or the Profile Design BTA FC25 (longer with attachment space for computer). These front mounts can also be refilled during long races, but it will require you to sit up and squeeze a bottle into the hydration system, so make sure to practice that skill ahead of time!
If you're looking for bottle cages and bottles, that are the most aero as possible, we highly recommend the XLAB Aero TT System with a carbon cage and 20 oz bottle capacity. This being said, sometimes aero bottles can be harder to handle and you may need a larger bottle for your nutrition needs, making prioritizing hydration more important than aero gains. Unfortunately we can't answer this question for you in a blog - you have to decide for yourself!
Plan your nutrition intake strategically. Space out your consumption to avoid overloading your stomach. For longer races, target regular intervals, such as every 15-30 minutes (depending on what you're eating/what distance you're racing/etc.) to maintain a steady flow of energy throughout the race. For shorter races, this may not matter as much (or you may not be eating at all during the race!).
Top Tube Bags: These small, aerodynamic bags fit on the top tube of your bike, providing easy access to nutrition without compromising your aerodynamics. They are perfect for storing gels, chews, snacks, salt tabs and more.
Many of us race with the XLAB Stealth Pocket, which actually screws into the top tube of the SP to hold it in place and avoid any annoying velcro sizing/cutting/overlap. It may look small, but during Kona this year, Megan fit three Maurten gels and two Maurten chews (cut up) in this bag!
For full-distance races such as IRONMAN, you may get a chance to replenish food halfway through the bike leg, but it also slows you down. If you can hold carry as much with you and pick up nutrition at aid stations (most races will publish what they have at aid stations in advance) then you could potentially save MINUTES in the long run.
Successfully navigating the bike leg of a triathlon requires careful consideration of both nutrition and storage. By selecting the right kind of food, planning your intake strategically, and investing in effective storage solutions, you can ensure that your energy levels remain optimal throughout the race. Practice your nutrition plan during training, and come race day, you'll be well-equipped to conquer the race with confidence.