Race-Day Nutrition for Sprint and Olympic-Distance Triathlons

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Since race-day nutrition is such a big part of long distance racing, and because IRONMAN and other long distance events generate so much noise in the triathlon space, it can be difficult to find good guidance on how to fuel for a sprint or Olympic-distance triathlon. It's not uncommon to see new triathletes in their first short course races racking their bikes with four bottles of sports drink and 10 gels taped to the top tube.

Before we give you our recommended nutrition plan for short course racing, however, we want to share with you a few key points regarding endurance sports nutrition in general.

More: How to Create Your IRONMAN Nutrition Plan


You have (about) a 2-hour gas tank: Your body burns primarily fat to fuel itself during endurance training and racing. However, this fat is burned in the fire of carbohydrates, that is, your body needs to burn carbs in order to burn this fat. Your body's primary sources of carbs are:

  1. Glycogen stored in the muscles and liver.
  2. Food or sugars eaten during exercise.

Very generally speaking, a well-trained endurance athlete has about 1500 to 2000 calories of glycogen stored in their body and available as the fire in which to burn fat, our primary fuel during exercise. In our experience, this glycogen store is good for about 1.75 to 2.5 hours of exercise for that well-trained endurance athlete. Hold that thought...

More: Top 5 Race-day Nutritional Tips

Less is More

"Hey, Body, I want you swim very hard, bike very hard, then run very hard. Oh, and while you're at it, I want you to also eat and process this fancy sports food I'm shoving down your neck."