Tag Archives: nutrition

TT062: Hydration & Heat Prep From a Hot Ironman Lake Placid and Mont-Tremblant

Canadian Allan MacKenzie recently completed Ironman Lake Placid and Ironman Mont-Tremblant in hot conditions.  We talked about that experience and his heat and hydration questions following the race.  I answer his questions from my own knowledge, but I also add George Dallam’s answers.  

George, a guest on episodes 3, 4, and 25,  is a professor at Colorado State University in Pueblo.  He was the first USA Triathlon National Teams coach and he coached Olympic triathlete Hunter Kemper.  His answers were originally in response to my email, and he allowed me to publish his email here.

Each of Allan’s questions is listed below, and George’s answers follow.

  1. For someone who doesn’t have the opportunity to train much outdoors in high temperatures, what are the best ways to be prepared if race day ends up being really hot?

Acclimate – hot tub, sauna, indoors with heater/humidifier, any stationary training as well. It is all about producing a high sweat rate.

Here is the link to George’s two week hot tub protocol –http://triathletetraining.com/heat-acclimation-protocol/

  1.   How long does it take to get acclimatized/prepared to race in warmer than normal temperatures?

Even one session can help and you can probably maximize over as little as 2-3 weeks with daily sessions.

  1.    Other than adding more sodium to my diet, are there other things I can do with my diet to help get better acclimatizes to the heat?

I’m not an advocate of adding more sodium to the diet, just the opposite.  The currently in vogue notion that “salty sweaters” need more sodium ignores the underlying issue.  Salty sweaters are inevitably consuming more sodium than they realize so the body must constantly excrete the excess.  By reducing sodium in the diet your body will improve in its ability to preserve sodium over time..  Further by greatly increasing your sodium intake over normal in a given racing situation you probably increase the risk of heat stroke – sodium reduces our sweating capacity by holding water in the vascular and interstitial spaces.  The best approach to heat tolerance is appropriate acclimation and a low salt diet in my estimation.

  1.     What are your thoughts on using arm coolers and/or knee coolers to help to stay cool during races?

Pre cooling to lower the core temperature prior to a hot race is certainly very useful.  If you can create a cooling effect on the fly that is certainly useful as well.  However, to do so means carrying extra weight in most cases in the form of a cold solution or ice.  The idea that any clothing enhances cooling in comparison to what the bare skin can accomplish during periods of heavy sweating is misleading.  See this review.  http://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00007256-200333130-00001#page-1 Some fabrics are relatively more cooling than others (cotton versus wool for instance) but all limit cooling to some degree by  inhibiting the evaporative cooling process in some manner. Maximum skin exposure provides the greatest surface area for sweating and the resulting evaporative effect created as air moves past the body.  The thought with white reflective clothing is that you might avoid radiant heat gain, however the loss in evaporative cooling potential offsets that possible effect.   Of course wearing or not wearing clothing must also be considered in the need for limiting UV exposure and for creating both aero and aquadynamics.   Consider, however that shaved body parts are often nearly as aero/aquadynamic as fabrics designed for the purpose and shaving further increases the potential for evaporative heat loss.  Basically in the heat you should wear the minimal clothing necessary or required and it should be white or light colored.

Very likely your arms and legs have sufficiently keratinized  (tanned) through normal training exposure so that you shouldn’t need to cover them with clothing to prevent sun burn – doing so will reduce your evaporative cooling potential.

5.  And what is your opinion on salt tabs?

See above – this is a worst case scenario.

  1.      When I raced Ironman Mont Tremblant (MT) this year I didn’t pee during the bike portion at all.

That is an obvious indication to me that I was dehydrated. I’m don’t think it had a significant effect on my bike, but I feel it adversely effected my run. Usually I have a good gauge on this and am often guilty of drinking too much. What would you recommend to help prevent this from happening again?

Some relative dehydration can actually be beneficial to performance (although less than ideal when it comes to the possibility of thrombus formation) because you are simply lighter.  This might be true up to about 2% loss in body weight – possibly more if you train in those conditions.  The primary key to maintaining hydration is to drink fluids that are isotonic (similar salt concentration to your body fluids)  – this approach maximizes absorption at the gut and reduces the tendency for diuresis during the race (you’d really rather not pee if possible).    I would drink on schedule in small amounts if you want to prevent dehydration based on your typical weight loss (2 cups per pound). Something like traditional Gatorade cut in  half with water gets you there – most conventional “salty” drinks have way more salt than is present in the blood stream.  I would use Tim Noakes advice and drink to thirst if you want to allow for a little normal dehydration.   If you have had a reason to believe that you are at risk for thrombus formation I would take the first option and stay hydrated when training and racing.   You can also pre-hydrate pretty effectively using a glycerol solution if you have great concerns for dehydration.

  1.       I wore a visor in Lake Placid (LP), but opted for a hat during MT (so that I could put ice under my hat to try and stay cool). Which do you recommend for a really hot day?

Ice under the hat is effective on the fly cooling strategy – see above.

  1.       I have fair skin and usually need sunscreen to prevent getting a burn. In LP I applied it in the am before the swim and again in T2. I planned to do the same in MT, but I forgot to do so in T2 and I think this really played a role with my run time. Does a sun burn have a significant effect on my ability to stay hydrated?

Interesting question.   I’m not aware of any direct effect of sunburn and/or sun screens on evaporative cooling potential.  However, a quick search reveals the following studyhttp://search.proquest.com/openview/3ca96ce6df9654a03c18b6e0cb47d8bd/1?pq-origsite=gscholar which suggests no negative effect of wearing sunscreen and a possible type II statistical error – suggesting there may even be a small positive effect through an improved temperature gradient (core to skin temperature differential) which the study failed to find probably due to too few subjects or the fact that the difference were so small.  You might also experiment in training with sunscreens that are more water resistant – Bull Frog comes to mind – so you can avoid reapplication after the swim.


TT052: Ultraman Florida Triathlon Winner Billy Edwards

Billy Edwards has done many Ironmans and never finished slower than 10 hours.  He recently attempted his first ultra-distance triathlon, winning Ultraman Florida in a time of 23 hours and 17 minutes covering a span of 3 days, besting a field of 39 triathletes.  Ultraman Florida 2015 Results

Billy tells us what went right, what went wrong, and his plans to do Ultraman Hawaii.



TT045: Ironman Arizona Winner & Olympian Brent McMahon

At age 34 Canadian Brent McMahon attempted his first Ironman in Arizona.  Previously, he was a 2004 and 2012 Olympian, and 2014 was going well with four Ironman 70.3 wins.  On the starting line he didn’t have a time goal, nor had he even pondered a finishing time before this race.

He followed a race plan crafted with Lance Watson, his coach of 20 years.  That included a caloric intake of roughly 500 calories per hour on the bike while ignoring his competitors.  When a couple contenders passed him early in the bike he started to ride with them but backed off when he realized it required a greater power output than he planned to ride.

He finished the bike in third after a 4:21 split.  He ran the first half of the marathon in 1:20 and finished with a 2:43 run, giving him a 5 minute margin of victory and a 7:55 final time, the fastest Ironman debut in history.

Despite competing at a level far above most triathletes, his race execution tips are golden and helpful to all triathletes.

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TT042: Augusta 70.3 Half Ironman Triathlon Part 2

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“I think the most intimidating thing about doing a half was that I would read so much and I would look at all the things I needed to know about the swim, the bike, and the run and think, ‘can I really do this?  Am I putting in enough training?'”

Trish Roberts Post-Race Interview

The previous episode featured a pre-race interview with Trish Roberts six weeks before her first Half Ironman.  In addition to training, Trish has a full-time job in addition to being a mother and wife.

On September 28, she finished Ironman 70.3 Augusta in 6:55.  Her goal was 7:30.

On race day the temp was 70 degrees with high humidity.  The swim was down a river and resulted in a fast time.  She paced the bike on perceived effort with a goal of 15mpm.  She was 7 minutes faster on the second half of the bike and the effort felt comfortable throughout.

Her biggest issue was discomfort with her seat, and she will be replacing that for future training.  Her goal was 250 calories per hour, and if I recall her weight is 125 pounds.  She had a mix of gel, a Honey Stinger Waffle (designed for athletic use), and Skratch drink.  Her fueling, with one exception, was planned and tested in advance of the race. She made the last minute decision to use Skratch during the race, and didn’t sip water on the ride.  This is something she will change in future races as it resulted in an intake that was too calorically dense and lacked water.  On the run she craved water only and not sports drinks.  However, she still felt good throughout the run.

She plans to do Augusta 70.3 again in 2015 and she took detailed notes of her experience to better prepare for next year.  This note taking is great advice for every athlete and pays huge dividends.

Her results are below.

Augusta 70.3 Results

Augusta 70.3 Results

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TT028: Half Ironman Training Questions From Second Year Triathlete Shawn Deal

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Shawn Deal Half Ironman Training Questions

My guest is second year triathlete Shawn Deal from Springfield Missouri. Shawn did a few triathlons and duathlons last year and this year he’s gearing up for the Kansas 70.3 Half Ironman on June 8.

Shawn is finishing his Masters in Divinity on May 3. He has a triathlon on May 4 and the Olympic distance Memphis in May Triathlon on May 18.  In June he will do the Half Ironman Kansas 70.3 triathlon.

Shawn is a member of the Ozark Multisport Club (http://www.go-omc.com).  In his first triathlon last year Shawn was pulled under water early in the swim and didn’t finish the race.  After the race he questioned whether to continue with the sport, but several members of his club offered support and he stuck with it.  They even offered a surprise gift to help him with his racing this year.

I answer several of Shawn’s questions regarding adding run intensity, volume, race day nutrition, doing an Ironman, and more.

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TT027: Losing The Last 5 Pounds, Sodium, Hydration, Nutrition, Supplements, & More!

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“The best time to lose weight is in the off-season when that restriction is not going to compromise energy levels as much. However, it is feasible to lose weight in the midst of training.”

Author, Athlete, & Dietitian Kim Mueller

Kim is the guest for episode 27.  She is a Registered Dietitian, a board certified specialist in Sports Dietetics, owner of Fuel Factor Nutrition Coaching, co-creator of and staff nutritionist at Infinit Nutrition, author of “The Athletes Guide to Sports Supplements” (Human Kinetics, 2013), and a former All-American Triathlete.  She is currently focusing on running with a goal of  qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials in LA.

Kim is a big proponent of making diet the primary component to health.  We covered a wide range of topics, including weight loss, supplements, hydration, sodium intake, caloric intake, and much more.

On weight loss, Kim advises her clients to use up to 500 calories of their workout expenditure to incur a deficit for healthy fat loss.  For example, if your base caloric need was 2000 calories and your burned 700 calories training, take in 2200 calories.  If you did no training on a specific day then your caloric consumption should match your baseline rate of 2000 calories.

To determine your caloric needs she recommends the Harris Benedict Equation. This can be found online in many places.  Here is one option:


To track your diet her top choice is a pen and paper.  There are many online options including TrainingPeaks.com and MyFoodRecord.com.

The average athlete will lose ½ to 1 liter of fluid her hour with at least moderate exertion.

Kim’s sodium replacement recommendation – 500-700mg per liter of fluid (33 ounces) consumed.

Kim’s website is Fuel-Factor.com

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TT026: Training Questions – Run Intensity, Diet, Wetsuit, Crossfit, and More.

Training Questions

First year triathlete Ryan Lewis joins the show to ask his training questions.  Ryan is a 30 year old triathlete with 3 months of training under his belt and he is less than a month away from his first triathlon.

Topics covered include:

Crossfit and triathlon at the same time
Paleo diet and carb intake needed for training
Open water swimming prep and drills
Adding run intensity
Should he get a wetsuit?
Zero drop shoes
And more…

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the information and equipment choices available to triathletes. Ryan wisely makes the choice to keep things simple during his first year in the sport.

Basic Drills & Skills For Open Water Swimming

1. Turn around before the wall – during a segment of your workout turn around without the help of the wall, either with or without a flip turn.

2. Learn bilateral breathing – learn to breathe to the left and to the right so you can make adjustments in the open water.  If you’re staring into the sunrise every time you breathe right, you’ll be thankful for the ability to breathe to the left.

3. Learn to draft – if you do all of your swimming on your own you won’t realize the benefits of drafting off swimmers in front of you. Just like cycling, you will save energy in the draft.  Practice swimming right behind your training partner.

4. Swim freestyle with your head out of the water for a full length.  Get used to being able to look forward while swimming.

5. Swim in the pool with your eyes close to learn which way you drift.

6. Practice open water swimming often so you feel comfortable.


Swim Speed Secrets by Sheila Taormina available at Amazon.com or http://sheilat.com/

Total Immersion available at Amazon.com


TT015: Ironman & Long Distance Racing With Gordo Byrn


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Eric: “What was your rationale for going so many years without being tested for VO2 Max?”
Gordo: “It doesn’t matter. All you are going to do is give yourself an excuse not to try.  It does not matter.  Your genetics don’t matter. That’s completely my story.”


I interviewed Gordo Byrn, co-author of Going Long, and a seven time sub-9 hour Ironman finisher, including an 8:29 for a second place finish at Ironman Canada.  Gordo also won Ultraman in Hawaii.  

Gordo went from full time finance guy to not-so-fast triathlete to the elite level by doing a LOT of work (understatement).  Gordo hasn’t raced seriously in several years, but he continues to stay fully involved as a coach (EnduranceCorner.com).

Gordo with son Axel in Colorado.

Gordo with son Axel in Colorado.

Most of the interview covered Ironman distance training and racing, but much of our discussion  provides useful information for all types of racing. Here are some of the highlights.

Ironman Cycling Calorie Race Requirements
Race time, size, and the ability to use fat for fuel will all affect calorie requirements for an Ironman. A powermeter will show you kJs (kilojoules) produced during a ride.. As a starting point, Gordo suggests eating ½ of kJ output on the bike.  For a 200 watt ride, that equates to 720 kJs and a 360 calorie requirement/hour.   Continue reading