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Long Course Nutrition

Long Course Triathlon Nutrition
By Enduracefactor Coach Doug Bush

Now that your rides and runs have been getting longer it is important to develop a nutritional plan to use in training and also for race day. Nutrition is one of the key elements to fine tune before as it can have a huge impact on how your race day develops. What I suggest is to start with these guidelines for caloric consumption and type of calories to see how your body feels and digests the food during training. One thing to keep in mind is to make sure that we try out everything in training before race day, you don’t want to try something new during the race.

It would be a good idea to use the product available on the course periodically in training to see if you can easily digest the food and it does not upset your stomach. You don’t have to use these items every day in training; in fact it would be a good idea to switch up different brands so that come race day you are not totally sick of the product. We do however want to use exactly the products a few times during training that they will have on the course.  Musselman will have Gatorade Endurance, carbBOOM! Energy Gel, Clifbar minibars available race day.

Carbohydrate is the key nutrient that your body uses during exercise. While there have been a few studies recently that show drinks with protein may improve performance, my experience is that they can cause stomach upset, so I would steer clear. Also make sure to avoid foods with fat during exercise as like protein, fat is also difficult to digest.


It is important to try and match fluid loss during your workouts and especially on race day. Everyone has a different sweat rate which can range from 10 to 90 oz per hour. An easy way to ensure you are getting enough fluids is to do a sweat rate test in conditions and relative intensity that are similar to race day.

Here is how perform a sweat rate test:

Take body weight before and after a workout without clothing.

Make sure to dry off after workout.

Ideally the workout should be one hour or longer.

Every 1lb of body weight lost during exercise equals 16 ounces of fluid loss.


Weight before workout _____ - weight after exercise ______ = fluid weight loss ______

Fluid weight loss _____ X 16 oz + fluid consumed during exercise = total fluid loss ______

Total fluid loss ______ X length of workout in hours ______ = sweat rate per hour ______


I recommend that during training that you try to get in about 350 calories per hour on the bike from a combination of food and liquid calories. To start use the following guidelines for rides over 90 minutes and see how you feel.

Consumption Per Hour

o   .75 to 1 liter of sports drink per hour = 100 - 200 calories. Make sure to drink every 15 minutes or so rather than consuming large amounts at once.

o   1 gel per hour = 100calories. In the middle of a longer ride it is good to substitute in a Clifbar for some of the gels as they are a bit more substantial. Like the sports drink consumption, try to eat a little bit at a time. Eating every 20 to 30 minutes make the digestion much easier.

o   In addition to sports drink, once you calculate your sweat rate make up the remainder of your fluid loss with water.


This is ideally the type of menu that we will use on race day as it is simple and easy to digest.

**One crucial thing to keep in mind. Whenever you are eating make, sure to drink water with food rather than sports drink. Having too high of a concentration of carbohydrates in your stomach can really slow down digestion and cause problem. This applies to both the bike and the run.


It is more difficult for your body to digest food on the run compared to the bike. As a start I would shoot for around 150 - 200 calories per hour. Use these guidelines on runs over 60 minutes.

Consumption Per Hour

·        .5 to .75 liter of sports drink per hour = 100 to 150 calories.

·        1 gel per hour = 100 calories. You can also substitute in bars during training.

·        .5 liter of water per hours

As with the bike make sure to space out the calories evenly throughout the hour.

These are just starting points and everyone has a bit different needs so don't be afraid to try things during training, better to get things figured out before race day!

If you are looking for some help on training for Musselman or Mini-mussel check out our coaching partner's program option.  Endurancefactor has designed 12 and 16 week programs for both distances.  The 16 week program starts March 21st and 12 week starts April 18th.  More info available on the Musselman training page -

Doug Bush is owner and head coach of Endurancefactor which specializes in custom solutions for all types of endurance athletes.  He has a Bachelors’ Degree in Exercise Science and currently holds level II USA Triathlon and level I USA Cycling coaching certifications.  For more information about Doug, please go to or


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