The Top 3 Points to Consider in Your Triathlon Race Strategy: Nutrition

Part 3 in a 3-part series.

While pacing is the foundation of triathlon race strategy and swim strategy the starting point, let’s now move on to the final strategy that keeps everything in check: race nutrition.


Race nutrition as a triathlon race strategy means planning for the following: what you’re going to use as fuel, when to consume it, and how you’re going to consume it amidst constant movement.

We won’t get into product specifics because nutrition is so highly dependent on the individual. However, there are a few takeaways for your triathlon race strategy, which apply to nearly everyone.

First, what you consume needs to work for you based on how many calories you need per hour, what stabilizes your sodium and glucose levels, and what you’re able to actually swallow while on the bike and on the run. This will require research on your end, knowledge from your coach, and experimentation.

The most important takeaway from these facts is that you absolutely must train with the products you’re going to consume during the race. This theme underlines all three aspects of race nutrition strategy. If you’ve decided that product X is best for you then you need to train consistently with product X in order to

  1. Know that product X works and that you can stomach it.
  2. Know how often to consume product X and its serving size.
  3. Know how you’re going to carry product X with you on the bike and on the run.

Second, a best practice for nutrition strategy is to know when to consume it and what its serving size is, depending on the conditions. This applies to solid or semi-solid foods, supplements, and all types of fluids.

When training week in and week out, be sure to take notes on what your rate of consumption was (calories per hour, sodium intake, fluid intake) in various weather conditions. What worked and didn’t work in hot, humid weather? Likewise for milder conditions.

Triathlon race nutrition will change depending on the climate on race day. You should be armed and prepared with knowledge of your rate of consumption and how much is required based on the conditions for that specific event.

Finally, triathlon race nutrition strategy requires you to have a method of transportation for your products. There’s a wealth of triathlon nutrition-related carriage products ranging from bento boxes, bottle cages, run belts, hand bottles, and aerodynamic between the aero bars hydration set-ups. In other words, plenty to choose from.

Your job is to think about which devices are going to work best for your nutrition without sacrificing too much aerodynamics on the bike and without being too cumbersome on the run. Things to think about are: Do you have trouble remembering to drink on the bike? Consider a hydration system with an extended straw. Do your arms cramp on the run if you’re holding something? Go with a hydration belt or camel back system rather than a hand bottle. And so on and so forth.

The overall lesson learned from these points is that nutrition strategy begins long before the race and requires extensive research, testing, and planning. Be sure to read up on the science but don’t forget to work on the basics described above. Real world execution is always different than what a textbook will tell you.

A triathlon race strategy is lacking until you’ve considered the points discussed in this blog series. Pacing, swim strategy, and nutrition are the blueprints for a race game plan. Now it’s up to you to incorporate these tactics into your training and, likewise, the big day!

TRIDOT TAKEAWAY: A triathlon race strategy falls apart without proper attention to nutrition. Before and after selecting your nutritional product, always put it into practice through regular training, in various weather conditions, and know your method of transportation.

TALK WITH TRIDOT: Besides the specifics of what kind of nutrition is best, what other takeaways in triathlon race nutrition are you aware of? When it comes to specifics such as calorie intake, what products have worked best for you?

JARED MILAM is a professional triathlete, TriDot coach, and member of the Tri4Him Pro Team. He has 16 years of competitive running experience and 11 years of competitive triathlon experience with a half Iron PR of 3:59 and a full Iron PR of 8:30. Coaching under the TriDot system since 2011, Jared loves working with aspiring triathletes of all ages and performance levels.

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