Triathlons emerged as a competitive sport in the 1980s and continue to increase in popularity. Triathlon is a highly competitive multidisciplinary event that involves a swim, cycle and run of various lengths depending on the competition level. Athletes participating in triathlons range from full-time professional to amateur recreational athletes. Triathlon athletes must train in range of environments and challenger their body’s to adapt to various training stimuli such as muscular endurance, strength and speed as a result these athletes are lean, with low body fat and have a high level of anaerobic and aerobic fitness.

Sport-specific physiological demands

The physiological demands of a triathlon are significantly different to the individual sports of swimming, distance running and cycling. To be competitive in each segment of the race athletes train as often as twice daily. Competing in three different disciplines in one race challenges the body in a host of ways and athletes must be well equipped to deal with each segment of the race. The Iron Man triathlon is considered one of the most challenging types of triathlon, involving a 3800 m swim, 180 km cycle and a 42.2 mile run. This type of gruelling endurance event has a huge physiological and mental impact on the athlete. Athletes have been known to lose >2.5 kg of body weight and expend in the region of 10000-11500 calories per race. This weight reflects fluid losses through sweating (dehydration) and depletion of intramuscular glycogen (carbohydrate) and triglyceride (fat) stores. Great emphasis must be placed on how the athlete prepares, performs and recovers from such an event with appropriate training, nutrition and active recovery all critical for success. Clearly, appropriate nutrition strategies for training and performance are critical to triathletes of all abilities.

Nutritional considerations

Due to the physical demands, high energy expenditure and loss of fluids, athletes must give great attention to their nutritional requirements in preparation for, during and recovery from triathlon events to maximise exercise performance. Carbohydrate containing foods are most critical for maximising performance in high intensity sports lasting greater than 1 hour. Adequate intake of CHO is critical to performance for athletes training and competing in triathlons. Due to the long length and high intensity of training and competition there is a significant requirement for high daily CHO intakes. CHO-rich foods are critical for replacing glycogen stores that are depleted during training and competition. Endurance athletes are advised to consume a high carbohydrate (CHO) diet on a daily basis to maximise glycogen levels which is the main source of fuel during high intensity exercise. Athletes should also aim to consume a balanced-diet rich in micronutrients and essential oils to maintain a healthy immune system and avoid illness. An optimum amount of fluid and fuel before, during and after a triathlon is critical for exercise performance. In the lead up to a race athletes should carbohydrate load to ensure maximum available energy before the race and carefully plan their fluid and fuel intake during the race to maintain a supply of energy to working muscles. Recovery nutrition should begin immediately with a source of fast digesting CHO and easily digested protein to replace depleted glycogen levels and facilitate the repair of damaged muscles.

Carbohydrate and carbohydrate loading

CHO loading is popular practice amongst triathletes prior to competition. CHO loading is science-based nutrition strategy used to maximise pre-exercise muscle and liver CHO (glycogen) stores. In the days leading up to the race training intensity and volume should be reduced, thus energy and CHO requirements are lower. To supercompensate glycogen levels (i.e. above normal levels) during this period athletes must eat a high CHO diet. For triathletes tapering training in the days leading into the race in conjunction with 7-12 g of CHO per kilogram body weight for 24 hours before competition is sufficient to maximally fill their glycogen stores.

Competition nutrition

Triathletes should develop a race nutrition strategy based around the provision of fluid, and fuel, in the form of rapidly-absorbed CHO, to offset the dehydration and depletion of muscle glycogen that contribute to fatigue. The intake of CHO during long duration exercise should be in the region of 1-1.4 g of CHO per kg body mass per hour. The combination of different CHO sources in a sports drink may be optimised for delivery of CHO during performance. CHO CHARGE is a cutting edge formulation combining the CHOs Vitargo and fructose specifically for this purpose providing rapidly-absorbed CHO to support high intensity exercise and maximise exercise performance. Dehydration by as little as 2% of body mass can reduce exercise performance by anywhere up to 30%. Athletes who become dehydrated during races are more susceptible to injury and will fatigue quickly if adequate hydration strategies are not implemented. Regularly consuming a CHO/electrolyte solution (i.e. sports drink during the race improves exercise endurance and performance compared to consuming water alone. CHO CHARGE also contains electrolytes for improved drink palatability and fluid retention.


If adequate CHO is not consumed after training and competition the quality and intensity of subsequent exercise sessions will suffer. Replacing glycogen stores after training and races is critical for the body’s recovery. A quality source of protein is also important for repairing damaged muscle fibres and facilitating beneficial adaptations to training/performance. The best way to replace glycogen stores during recovery is to consume a fast-digesting CHO-protein combination such as RecoverAce Endurance. It contains Vitargo, a rapidly-absorbed CHO source that rapidly replenishes muscle glycogen stores after tough sessions. The inclusion of protein in the recovery product not only aids recovery through growth and repair, but will also enhance the storage of new glycogen.


There is emerging evidence that protein supplementation, particularly EAAs and BCAAs during and after high intensity endurance exercise, can promote muscle protein synthesis and adaptation. The type, timing and amount of protein can be manipulated to enhance the adaptive response to training. A fast-digesting high-quality source of protein such as WHEY TRU or Recover Ace Endurance or isolated amino acids such as ISO BCAA and ISO EAA are appropriate sources. The consumption of BCAAs could be particularly beneficial for athletes competing in events such as triathlons where high intensity exercise is maintained over prolonged periods.


There is emerging evidence that protein supplementation, particularly essential amino acids (EAAs) and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) consumed during and after high intensity exercise can reduce the feelings of fatigue, and promote muscle protein synthesis and adaptation after exercise. The type, timing and amount of protein can be manipulated to enhance the adaptive response to training. A fast-digesting source of protein such as WHEY TRU, or using isolated amino acids such as ACTI BCAA or ACTI EAA, is appropriate. RecoverAce Endurance is an appropriate source of both quality protein and isolated amino acids, with the added benefit of containing a source of CHO.

ROS Recommends

Goal Why? ROS product
Recovery product Restore fuel stores and support optimum muscle recovery RecoverAce Endurance
RecoverAce Strength
Quality protein intake Essential for maintenance of optimum body composition Blue Label Whey
Target Whey Protein
Calcium Caseinate
Amino acid supplementation Facilitate training adaptations Aid growth and repair ISO BCAA Max 1500 mg
ISO EAA 1000 mg Tablets
CHO loading Maximise muscle glycogen stores that are critical for performance RecoverAce Endurance
Fuelling during competition Ensuring adequate hydration levels will reduce the negative effects on mental and physical function CHO CHARGE Caffeinated
Multivitamins and minerals Ensure adequate intake of essential micro nutrients Accovit Performance
Essential oils Meet the daily requirement for EPA & DHA Acti Omega
Acti Krill 500 mg
Joint care Helps to maintain optimum joint and bone health OmniJoint Original
OmniJoint Omega 3