Maximising performance in triathlon: Applied physiological and nutritional aspects of elite and non-elite competitions

Health and Exercise Science, University of New South Wales, Australia.
Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (Impact Factor: 3.19). 08/2008; 11(4):407-16. DOI: 10.1016/j.jsams.2007.07.010
Source: PubMed


Triathlon is a sport consisting of sequential swimming, cycling and running. The main diversity within the sport of triathlon resides in the varying event distances, which creates specific technical, physiological and nutritional considerations for athlete and practitioner alike. The purpose of this article is to review physiological as well as nutritional aspects of triathlon and to make recommendations on ways to enhance performance. Aside from progressive conditioning and training, areas that have shown potential to improve triathlon performance include drafting when possible during both the swim and cycle phase, wearing a wetsuit, and selecting a lower cadence (60-80 rpm) in the final stages of the cycle phase. Adoption of a more even racing pace during cycling may optimise cycling performance and induce a "metabolic reserve" necessary for elevated running performance in longer distance triathlon events. In contrast, drafting in swimming and cycling may result a better tactical approach to increase overall performance in elite Olympic distance triathlons. Daily energy intake should be modified to reflect daily training demands to assist triathletes in achieving body weight and body composition targets. Carbohydrate loading strategies and within exercise carbohydrate intake should reflect the specific requirements of the triathlon event contested. Development of an individualised fluid plan based on previous fluid balance observations may assist to avoid both dehydration and hyponatremia during prolonged triathlon racing.

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    • "However, whilst the significant performance improvements observed by Stone et al. [8] were also deemed to be competitively meaningful, the 4 km cycling time trial is a relatively short single-discipline endurance event (~ 6 min). Such findings may therefore have limited relevance to longer distance multi-disciplinary endurance events such as triathlon (~1 h to 17 h for sprint-distance to Ironman, respectively), due to the relative differences in exercise intensity and physiological stress imposed on athletes [15] [16]. Furthermore, there is considered to be more uncertainty regarding the endpoint and appropriateness of pacing during longer-distance endurance events which, in turn, leads athletes to maintain a greater 'reserve' capacity [9]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Objective This study examined the effects of speed deception on performance, physiological and perceptual responses, and pacing during sprint-distance triathlon running. Methods Eight competitive triathletes completed three simulated sprint-distance triathlons (0.75 km swim, 20 km bike, 5 km run) in a randomised order, with swimming and cycling sections replicating baseline triathlon performance. During the first 1.66 km of the run participants maintained an imposed speed, completing the remaining 3.33 km as quickly as possible. Although participants were informed that initially prescribed running speed would reflect baseline performance, this was true during only one trial (Tri-Run100%). As such, other trials were either 3% faster (Tri-Run103%), or 3% slower (Tri-Run97%) than baseline during this initial period. Results Performance during Tri-Run103% (1346 ± 108 s) was likely faster than Tri-Run97% (1371 ± 108 s), and possibly faster than Tri-Run100% (1360 ± 125 s), with these differences likely to be competitively meaningful. The first 1.66 km of Tri-Run103% induced greater physiological strain compared to other conditions, whilst perceptual responses were not significantly different between trials. Conclusions It appears that even during ‘all-out’ triathlon running, athletes maintain some form of ‘reserve’ capacity which can be accessed by deception. This suggests that expectations and beliefs have a practically meaningful effect on pacing and performance during triathlon, although it is apparent that an individual’s conscious intentions are secondary to the brains sensitivity to potentially harmful levels of physiological and perceptual strain.
    Physiology & Behavior 06/2014; 133. DOI:10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.05.002 · 2.98 Impact Factor
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    • "Drafting in swimming and cycling may result in a better tactical approach to increase the overall performance in elite Olympic distance triathlons (Bentley et al., 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: This study investigated the changes in performance and sex difference in performance of the world best triathletes at the ITU (International Triathlon Union) World Triathlon Series (i.e. 1.5 km swimming, 40 km cycling and 10 km running) during the 2009-2012 period including the 2012 London Olympic Games. Changes in overall race times, split times and sex difference in performance of the top ten women and men of each race were analyzed using single and multi-level regression analyses. Swimming and running split times remained unchanged whereas cycling split times (ß = 0.003, P < 0.001) and overall race times (ß = 0.003, P < 0.001) increased significantly for both women and men. The sex difference in performance remained unchanged for swimming and cycling but decreased for running (ß = -0.001, P = 0.001) from 14.9 ± 2.7% to 13.2 ± 2.6% and for overall race time (ß = -0.001, P = 0.006) from 11.9 ± 1.2% to 11.4 ± 1.4%. The sex difference in running (14.3 ± 2.4%) was greater (P < 0.001) compared to swimming (9.1 ± 5.1%) and cycling (9.5 ± 2.7%). These findings suggest that (i) the world's best female short-distance triathletes reduced the gap with male athletes in running and total performance at short distance triathlon with drafting during the 2009-2012 period and (ii) the sex difference in running was greater compared to swimming and cycling. Further studies should investigate the reasons why the sex difference in performance was greater in running compared to swimming and cycling in elite short-distance triathletes.
    SpringerPlus 12/2013; 2(1):685. DOI:10.1186/2193-1801-2-685
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    • "swimmers showed a faster velocity) (Hausswirth & Brisswalter 2008). Bentley et al. (2008) examined drafting in Olympic distance triathlon and described that drafting in the swimming and cycling split may result in a better tactical approach to increase overall performance. "
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    ABSTRACT: This study investigated trends in performance and sex difference in swimming speed of elite open-water swimmers at FINA 10 km competitions (i.e. World Cup races, European Championships, World Championships and Olympic Games). Swimming speed and sex difference in swimming speed of the fastest and the top ten women and men per event competing at 10 km open-water races between 2008 and 2012 were analysed using single and multi-level regression analyses. A total of 2,591 swimmers (i.e. 1,120 women and 1,471 men) finished 47 races. Swimming speed of the fastest women (1.35 ± 0.9 m/s) and men (1.45 ± 0.10 m/s) showed no changes across years. The mean sex difference in swimming speed for the fastest swimmers was 6.8 ± 2.5%. Swimming speed of the top ten female swimmers per event was 1.34 ± 0.09 m/s and remained stable across the years. The top ten male swimmers per event showed a significant decrease in swimming speed over time, even though swimming speed in the first race (i.e. January 2008, 1.40 ± 0.0 m/s) was slower than the swimming speed in the last race (i.e. October 2012, 1.50 ± 0.0 m/s) (P < 0.05). To summarize, swimming performances remained stable for the fastest elite open-water swimmers at 10 km FINA competitions between 2008 and 2012, while performances of the top ten men tended to decrease. The sex difference in swimming speed in elite ultra-swimmers (~7%) appeared smaller compared to other ultra-distance disciplines such as running. Further studies should examine how body shape and physiology of elite open-water ultra-distance swimmers influence performances.
    SpringerPlus 11/2013; 2(1):603. DOI:10.1186/2193-1801-2-603
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