The Virgin Active London Triathlon gets underway on the 27th-28th July, with many hard at training we have some tips to help you perform at your best. After our hard work with the Brownlee brothers, we have now teamed up with Melanie Chisholm to help her take on the Virgin London Triathlon and these tips are now being shared with you to help you train like the celebrities.

During Training


It is vitally important to maintain hydration during training and your triathlon. Reduction in hydration increased blood viscosity (thickness), leading to an increase in heart rate and reduced stroke volume 1. The chance of hyperthermia is also increased due to reduced sweat rate.

A good way to keep track of your fluid loss is to weigh yourself before and after each training session. Each 1 kg lost will be equivalent to 1 L water loss e.g. If you have lost 2 kg during your training session you will of lost 2 L of water. Therefore, during your next training session try to minimise this loss by drinking at least 2 L fluids throughout your training session.

Ensure that you do not lose more than 2-3% body weight through sweat loss (e.g. 1.4-2.1 kg for a 70 kg athlete). 2-3% dehydration is classed as severe dehydration and increase symptoms of fatigue 2.

Sweat rates can be increased by;

  • Higher heat
  • Higher humidity
  • Higher wind speed

It is important to try and experience as many of these environmental factors whilst training and see how each affects your sweat rates, altering fluid intake to suit the weather.


What you need to know about carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the main fuel that you will be using during your triathlon.

Carbohydrates are stored in the muscles as muscle glycogen and the average human can store roughly 400-600 g of this (in highly trained individuals this can reach up to and above 800 g). 400-600 g of muscle glycogen provides enough energy to sustain endurance performance for roughly 2 hours.

Therefore it is important to take on extra carbohydrates during the triathlon to maintain sufficient glycogen levels. This can be achieved easily through sport drinks, gels or bars. Aim for an intake of 1 g of carbohydrate per kg body weight per hour (e.g. 70 g per hour for a 70 kg athlete). This can be increase to 1.5 g per kg when using mixed sources of carbohydrates e.g. glucose and fructose as mixing carbohydrate sources increases the oxidation rate of the carbohydrates.

It is worthwhile testing these intakes during training as opposed to using for the first time in the event. This is due to chance that the upper limit of 1.5 g per kg may cause stomach upsets during training if you are not used to consuming high amounts of carbohydrates.


Micronutrient Considerations for Training

Ensure a good intake of fruits (2 servings per day) and vegetables (3 + servings) to increase vitamin and mineral content. Sufficient intake of all vitamins and minerals is very important, however there are several micronutrients that are essential to maintain during high volume endurance training;


  • An increased calcium intake will help maintain bone mass which can be reduced due to the high volume, high impact nature of triathlon training.
  • Try to consume 2-3 servings of dairy per day

Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D aids the absorption of calcium so ensure a good intake/sun exposure
  • The only food that high amounts of Vitamin D are naturally found in are oily fish e.g. mackerel and salmon, increase intake of these to 3 + times per week
  • Eat wholegrain cereals fortified with vitamin D
  • The majority of the vitamin D stored in our body is due to exposure to UV rays. Therefore good exposure to the sun e.g. running in shorts and a t-shirt once a week will help increase vitamin D levels. Be cautious of burning.


  • Endurance athletes can have increased Iron requirements due to increased losses in sweat, faecal and blood.
  • Low iron levels can reduce haemoglobin levels and affect red blood cell production. This can reduce the oxygen carrying capacity of the body, which can in turn affect your performance during training and the triathlon.
  • Try to aim for 2 servings of rare, high quality steaks per week (avoid mince), in addition to 2-3 servings of green leafy vegetables per day e.g. spinach, broccoli, kale and cabbage
  • Vitamin C aids the absorption of Iron so drink a glass of orange juice with sources of Iron to maximise uptake.
  • The phytates found in wholegrain carbohydrates and oats can inhibit iron uptake so try to avoid eating these in the same meal as the iron rich sources.
  • Tannins found in tea can also inhibit iron absorption, so again, avoid drinking tea with red meat.
  • Calcium intake may also reduce Iron absorption so focus dairy intake (e.g. dairy) around the morning and iron intake (e.g. red meat) in the evening to reduce the negative effect.


Suggestions for the Week before the race

Days 1-3

Moderate carbohydrate intake 4-6 g per kg bodyweight per day (e.g. 280-420 g for a 70 kg athlete)

Maintain training intensity and volume

Days 4-6

High carbohydrate intake 8-10+ g per kg bodyweight per day (e.g. at 560 – 700 + grams for a 70 kg athlete)

Reduce training intensity and volume and use rest days to allow super-compensation of carbohydrates to increase muscle glycogen stores.

Race Day

Timings of intake before a race can significantly effect triathlon performance. The following intakes have been shown through research to be the most effective4;

3-4 hours before

  • High carbohydrate, low Gi meal containing 120-140 g carbohydrates
  • Slow release carbohydrates are most suitable e.g. wholemeal pasta, quinoa, couscous and brown rice
  • Low fat
  • 20-30 g (protein will further reduce the Gi of the meal and the rate at which the carbohydrates are broken down)



  • Slowly drink 5-7 ml of fluid per kg of bodyweight e.g. 350-490 ml for a 70 kg athlete3
  • Add an SIS Go Energy sachet to increase carbohydrate content
  • If no urination occurs within 2 hours or if urine is a dark colour, drink more fluid after 2 hours (3-5 ml per kg of body weight e.g. 210-350 ml for a 70 kg athlete)3

30-45 minutes before

  • High Gi Snack containing 50-70 g carbohydrates
  • Low protein
  • Low fat
  • Fast acting sugary foods are best here e.g. bananas, dried fruit, malt loaf, energy bars


  • Small drink ~200 ml of electrolyte solution


During the Triathlon

As mentioned before aim to intake 1-1.5 g per kg body weight of carbohydrate per hour e.g. 70-105 g for a 70 kg athlete

Use gels that contain multiple carbohydrate sources e.g. glucose and fructose (e.g. Science in Sport Go Gels) as single source carbohydrates can only be absorbed at a rate of 1 g per kg bodyweight per hour. This will also help increase gastric emptying and increase the absorption of water.

Also try to consume 200-300 ml of fluid per 30 minutes, depending on fluid loss rate found in training, as mentioned before.

Sample Plan

Every 30 minutes

  • 1 x SIS Go Gel – 22 g Carbohydrates
  • 300 ml of water with 24 g SIS Go Electrolyte – 23 g carbohydrate

This will give a carbohydrate intake of 90 g per hour with a fluid intake of 600 ml per hour.

Triathlon specific considerations

Place energy gels in your running/cycling top so that you have a source of carbohydrates after your transition from the swim. Pre-prepare a water bottle with a carbohydrate and electrolyte supplement similar to above and attach this to your bike, ready for the transition.


Some Supplement ideas


Why caffeine?

The benefit of caffeine in a triathlon and other endurance-based sports is that it increases free fatty acid oxidation to spare muscle glycogen

3 mg per kg bodyweight (e.g. 210 mg for 70 kg athlete) 60 minutes before the start of the race.

1 mg per kg bodyweight (e.g. 70 mg for 70 kg athlete) every two hours.


3 x SIS Go + Caffeine 30 minutes before the start of the race

1 x SIS Go + Caffeine every 2 hours




Beetroot Juice

Why beetroot juice?

Beetroot juice has been proven reduce the oxygen cost of exercise and allow a greater sustained power output for the same oxygen consumption 5. This occurs due to the high nitrate levels in the beetroot juice increasing nitric oxide levels in the blood. In turn this increases vasodilation of the blood vessels (opens the blood vessels wider) allowing greater oxygen transportation due to increased blood flow.

How to use

  • 500 ml of beetroot juice once a day for 2 days before triathlon
  • 500 ml of beetroot juice or 1 x Beet It shot one hour before the triathlon.




  • During training consume 1-1.5 g per kg bodyweight of carbohydrate per hour.
  • Consume 1 g per kg bodyweight of carbohydrate and 20-25 g protein immediately after training.
  • Increase Iron, Calcium and Vitamin D intake.
  • Weigh yourself before and after training to make yourself aware of fluid losses and hydration needs.

Triathlon Week

Days 1-3

  • 4-6 g per kg body weight per day carbohydrates

Days 4-6

  • 8-10+ kg per kg body weight per day carbohydrate

Race Day

  • 3-4 hours before – low Gi high carbohydrate meal (100-140 g carbohydrates), low fat (<10 g) and moderate protein (~20 g)
  • 45 minutes before – high Gi moderate carbohydrate snack (50-70 g)

During the race

  • 200-400 ml of fluid per 30 minutes (depending on conditions and sweat rates)
  • 1-1.5 g per kg bodyweight of carbohydrates per hour
  • Use carbohydrate gels and carbohydrate & electrolyte powder to add to fluids.



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