Fuelling a middle-distance triathlon

Adam Wade’s guide to fuelling a middle-distance Tri:

The day before the race:

General scientific guidance for the days leading up to a race advise 6-10 grams per kilogram body weight of carbohydrate. A 70kg individual should be looking to consume between 420 – 700 g of carbohydrate. For most people, the lower end of this is more appropriate. This might look like the following and this is what I aim for.

Breakfast, a good size carb rich breakfast. My go to is porridge, a large bowl with a banana and some honey.

Mid-morning snack – 2/3 slices of white bread with peanut butter and jam.

Lunch – White basmati rice with cod filet and vegetables.

Go for a short bike ride, 20 – 30 minutes fairly easy with a few spin ups.

Within 30 minutes of finishing this I’ll have a large (200g) bowl of pasta with a plain tomato sauce and a chicken breast. The combination of exercise and feeding primes the muscle to absorb the ingested carbohydrate and protein ready for the next day.

Lighter evening meal, rice with some scrambled eggs.

Just to note, this isn’t representative of my day to day diet which focuses more on whole grains, fruit and vegetables.

Race day:

Current scientific guidance for an event of this length suggests aiming for around 90 grams/hour of multiple transportable carbohydrates, either glucose/fructose or glucose/maltodextrin/fructose. Glucose and fructose are two of the basic units
of carbohydrates, sometimes referred to as simple sugars or monosaccharides. They provide a quickly absorbable source of energy that requires little digestion and are the main substrate we’ll use during a middle-distance triathlon. There are loads of sports nutrition products that provide these in the appropriate ratios, Torq, Maurten, Named Sport and SIS all have suitable products. Unlike day to day guidelines for carbohydrate intake which are based on body weight, during an event our ability to absorb carbohydrates sits around 60g/hr for glucose and or maltodextrin and 30g/hr of fructose. The best thing to do is experiment in training because too much or poor tolerance can lead to gastrointestinal distress and too little can cause an avoidable slowdown later in the race.

Here’s what I do: 2.5 – 3 hours before start I’ll have a decent breakfast of scrambled eggs and rice with about 500ml of water or an electrolyte drink depending on the weather.


Nothing else before the start except a few sips of water.

On the bike I’ll aim to have 1 bottle with 8-9 gels in and 1 bottle of water. I’ll aim to consume 7-8 gels on the bike and take a gulp every 20 minutes or so. I keep these in a bottle to save faffing with wrappers and I ensure I have a good gulp or 3 about 15 minutes before T2. Although I prefer not to eat solid food throughout the event, if you do want to eat solid food try something with little to no fibre or fat as these slow digestion and can cause gastrointestinal issues later on.

I’ll also have a gel with caffeine after about an hour and a half on the bike. Caffeine takes around 60 minutes to be fully absorbed, so this should peak just as I’m starting the run.

On the run I’ll have a gel every 25 minutes or so, about 3 in total. The first of these will be a gel with electrolytes which aid carbohydrate absorption. I’d recommend anyone experiment with electrolyte gels on the run in this length of event. Using a gel with electrolytes requires some water intake at the same time so I aim to have the gel a couple of minutes before hitting an aid station where I can grab a cup of water.