Playing around with nutrition


Most people say that nutrition is the fourth leg of a triathlon.

There is so much to know and different things to try.

I can’t say that this is my best “leg” of the race.

With the half Ironman triathlons I’ve completed, they have taken me around six to six-and-a-half hours to complete, which requires me to take in some sort of food and drink to sustain my energy levels.

With every one, however, I have gotten cramps in my legs, mainly my quads and sometimes calf muscles, during the run, which is so frustrating.

Most information out there on muscle cramping (trust me, I’ve looked) suggests that it is a result of either lack of nutrition/hydration or overuse of muscles. For me, I think it is lack of nutrition/hydration or at least finding the best combination for me.

I’ve tried lots of things: energy gels, drink supplements, Gatorade, energy chews, Honey Stinger bars, KIND bars, Cheeze-Its, Coke, Mr. Goodbars, just to name a few.

The energy gels are one of the most common ways to fuel, but I can only take a few of these before they start tasting sickeningly sweet.

These are little packages full of gel (think like apple pie filling consistency) with a sweet flavor: salted caramel, lemon, strawberry banana, etc. They took a while to get used to, but they are a common one for me to use because they are easy to carry, easy to digest and have caffeine in them.

However, my stomach will not tolerate energy gels for my target time of 14 to 15 hours at Ironman Louisville.

Usually, everything easy (think prepackaged, easily accessible) is sweet-flavored. This causes my stomach to get upset, and then I stop taking in nutrition altogether.

It’s like a waterfall effect.

I begin avoiding the Gatorade at the aid stations because it is sweet. Not only am I missing out on the caloric intake, but I am also missing the electrolytes and sodium that my body needs at that point.

Then my dreaded leg cramps show up.

During these next couple of months, I am going to be trying lots of combinations to try to find the right ones for me, so I can avoid having to stop and walk or stretch during that marathon run during my last leg of Ironman Louisville.

Stacey Parisi is a Seymour native and resident. Her columns will appear regularly in The Tribune as she trains to compete in the Ironman Louisville 2015.

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