It’s the first Friday of the New Year and I’m bringing Friday QnA back into the fold. So if you have any pressing questions … don’t be shy, just shoot them over to me at [email protected] and I’ll answer them the following week.

On that note and something I say to my coached athletes is; the stupidest question is the one that is never asked. We were all beginners once, and even seasoned athletes still don’t have the answers… hell, I don’t have all the answers, but if I don’t know .. I’ll tell you and find out for you.

Ok… so ask away and I can help you achieve more than ever in 2013.

So today I have one question from Jason Yee who has both my TS Ironman and 70.3 Blueprints and has a question on electrolytes.

Here it is.


Happy new year. I am a 70.3 and ironman plan member.

I am currently training for port macq (Ironman Port Macquarie for those non Aussies 😉 – those 1min on/1min off tuesday bike sessions are so good. I feel stronger already. I must say, the concepts you purport make so much more sense, especially with the BCR and strength on the bike. Lower cadence and big gear sits really well with me as opposed to smaller gear and high rpm as other plans suggest.

Perpetuem also is a winner. You have completely refined my training/nutrition/diet/mindset and I have every faith that I will be ready come race day.

I have even ordered a treadmill. Needless to say, I am already a convert and its only just the beginning !!

Anyway, my question revolves around electrolytes. Can too many electrolytes be consumed (during a session/race and in the long term re: continual use during 20wks of training) and what are the consequences? Do you have any scientific data? I read recently there is a difference between refined salt such as table salt and sodium from electrolytes.

I sweat a lot and have a history of cramping in the run. I currently use nuun tablets in training but plan to use salt tabs from hammer come race day. I do most of my riding on an indoor trainer so probably consume 5 tablets per wk at this stage of the build.

I am 61kg (5’3″ – was bloody hard to find a bike but eventually got an XS shiv) and plan to be 58kg come race day.

Considering we are of similar weight, what is your electrolyte and nutrition regime for ironman racing?
(I am aware this is variable re: weather etc but a general idea would be great)

Thanking you in advance for your response.

Jason A Yee

Thanks Jason and very happy to hear about your progress and looking forward to seeing your results come IM Port Macq.

As you are aware, I have played around and tested a lot when it comes to diets, nutrition and race nutrition protocols and one of these was electrolytes.

I sweat a lot and by this I mean A LOT. It’s why I was given the nickname “The Sprinkler” back in 08, training in Kona with Jo Lawn and Crowie. Jo would be riding behind me … asking if it was raining. LOL.

Anyway .. back then we (Charlotte and I) consumed a lot of electrolytes in the form of salt sticks. In fact we went up to 1000mg/hr on the bike and even increased this on the run.

Was it too much? The guys over at Hammer nutrition say yes, others say no. Did we have any consequences from taking in this much? Being honest with you, it’s hard to say. I had some great results with no cramping issues in hot climes so it seemingly worked. But I recommend reading through Hammers Electrolyte rationale with the science to get a better understanding why they recommend much less and also read the article by Steve Born “Electrolyte Replenishment – why it’s so important and how to do it right“.

In terms of differences in refined salt and sodium from electrolytes… Yes there is major differences. Highly refined salt is just not healthy as it goes through a chemical treatment process (so ditch the table salt for good and only consume, sea salt at the least, next best is celtic sea salt and the best is himalayan salt – in your day to day eating).

Going salt tablets or salt only is only providing two of the electrolytes your body requies. Sodium and Chloride and by only consuming these, you run the risk of oversupplying these two electrolytes and effecting the precise regulation of sodium in the body.

One potential mistake I see in your question is that you’re only using Nuun now but will swap to Hammer Endurolytes on race day. I’d recommend starting to use the Hammer endurolytes now on all your long session (2h+ bikes and 90+ min on the runs).

Start testing what you need in training and adjusting per environmental conditions. It’s hot and humid here on the Sunny Coast so I sit between 3-6 endurolytes per hour at the moment.

Same goes for amounts of nutrition needed on race day. So for Ironman my race day nutrition protocol looks like this:

Wake up:

? Glass of water, then my daily health tonic (Vital Greens, GoChi & Jule (gogji juice), glutamine, VitC).
? No breakfast
? Black Coffee
? Sip water, 45min before swim start I take 4 Endurolytes
? Only sipping water up to swim start.
? First 15-20min on bike I sip water only and allow body systems to settle before starting my drip feeding protocol.
? Bike nutrition: 1.5 scoops of Perpeteum/hr or 200cals/hr (derived from testing) // I have a few Hammer Gels with me just in case I feel I need more energy. You can always add more when you follow the less is more philosophy. If you try and pump in 300+ calories and hour, you WILL run into problems and it’s very hard and uncomfortable to reset!
? Note: Depending on conditions and intensity. If it’s hot, windy etc I’ll slightly reduce amounts I ingest as intensity goes up.
? Fluids and electrolytes on the bike. Again this is condition dependant but I’ll consume ~ 500-600ml of water per hour with 3-6 endurolytes per hour.
? I’ll drip feed this fuel, hydration schedule in every 15-20mins.
? Run nutrition: I feel as the day goes on, your ability to absorb fuel decreases, so I have a plan but also go on feel. I aim to consume 1-2 Hammer gels per hour. (135-180 calls per hour). If I’m taking on coke at aid stations I’ll usually tone down the gel intake to 1-1.5hr.
? Electrolytes I keep at 6 per hour.
? So my run would look like this essentially. I always drip feed and never take on huge amounts at one time as doing so makes it hard for the gut to absorb. Coming into aid station, I’d take say half a gel, then put 2 endurolytes in my mouth. Get water only. Next aid station If I was taking on coke, I’d go water to wash down next 2 endurolytes, coke, water (by squeezing the cup closed at the top, you can run with it and then easily pour into your mouth). I then just keep repeating this protocol.
? Keep it SIMPLE.

All of the above NEEDS to be practiced on your long sessions. So practice on the bike and then even if your run is only 30mins off the bike, practice taking on the gels and electrolytes (in training this will actually start helping with the post session nutrition recovery).

Something else I have recently put two and two together when it comes to cramping in the Quads/Adductors in racing. Normally I believed there was only two main reasons for muscular cramps. 1. Was not being fit enough for your muscles to handle the demands of the race (should not be the case if you have followed the training). 2. Electrolyte replacement and nutrition mistakes (usual suspect).

However after having this happen a few times now (and recently on a training ride) I can add a third to the mix. This is tri shorts that cut into your quads and restrict circulation. For those of us with ‘quadzillas” we need a tri short that doesn’t restrict blood flow.

So to summarise, your nutrition, hydration and electrolyte protocol is really n=1. Meaning you’re an individual and your needs will vary accordingly. You should start with a frame work (read here) and then adjust through self testing on your longer training session.

I’ll say this. 300 calories per hour is too much for nearly everyone. I don’t care what the ‘guru’s’ say. If you want stomach issues come race day then go for the approach of trying to replace losses … This is one of the biggest mistakes I see, coupled with going to hard to early. Too high intensity + trying to throw too many calories down the gullet = BIG problems and suboptimal performance.



P.S. I have a few questions for you (BELOW). If you’d be so kind as to answer them. It will take you less than a minute.

Mucho Gracias