Race-day carbohydrate intakes of elite triathletes contesting Olympic-distance triathlon events
Journal Title (Medline/Pubmed accepted abbreviation):  Int. J. Sport Nutr. Exerc. Metab .
Year:  2010
Volume: 20
Page numbers: 299-306
doi (if applicable): 

Summary of Background and Research Design

Background:Many official guidelines for carbohydrate intake recommend 1-4 g carbohydrates/kg body mass (85-340 g for an 85 kg or 187 lb. individual) before marathon events and then about 30-60 g/hr during the marathon. A positive relationship has been observed between total carbohydrate intake with finishing time for female triathletes. However, carbohydrate intake can lead to gastrointestinal distress. 

Hypothesis/Research Question:How many triathletes follow the guidelines for food and fluid (particularly carbohydrate) intake?

Subjects:Fifty-one male Australian male (36) and female (15) senior elite and under-23 triathletes were recruited.

Experimental design:No intervention

Treatments and protocol:Prerace and during-race food and fluid intake were acquired from three Olympic-distance triathlon events.

Summary of research findings:
  • Females consumed significantly more carbohydrates (3.3 g/kg body weight) than males (2.9 g/kg body weight) pre-race.
  • Females were most likely to consume between 3.1 and 4.0 g carbohydrate/kg, while males were more likely to consume 2.1 to 3.0 g/kg pre-race.
  • During the race, triathletes consumed less than the recommended 60 g carbohydrate per hour 66% of the time, with males averaging about 25 g carbohydrate/h and females averaging about 23 g carbohydrate/h.
  • 84% of participants consumed sports gels and 69% of participants consumed sports drinks durng the race.
  • More carbohydrate was consumed during warm-weather races than mild conditions. These extra carbohydrates came mostly from sports beverages. Pre-race carbohydrate intake was also increased in events starting later versus earlier in the day.
  • 100% of triathletes consumed carbohydrates during the cycling portion and 20% consumed carbohydrates during the running portion.

Interpretation of findings/Key practice applications:

The triathletes in this study, on average, met the current guidelines for pre-race carbohydrate intake but consumed less than recommended during exercise. Strategies for helping athletes efficiently carry carbohydrates may be helpful, as carbohydrate intake during the race increased as the amount of carbohydrate carried increased.
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