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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    • ", that can become committed to energy imbalance condition. A varied diet that emphasizes foods rich in nutrients and fluids and is adjusted to the daily training routine of the athlete can avoid extreme dietary behavior as severe energy restriction and reduced variety of foods [2]. Although the current sports nutrition guides are not specific to each sport [5] [6], it is known that each has its own peculiarities, and these has been closely related to their own energy demands imposed by each activity. "

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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.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · Physiology & Behavior
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2013 · SpringerPlus
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