The Ironman triathlon is one of the world’s most toughest sporting events. You’ll need to know exactly how to fuel your race to have the energy to finish strong.
Energy drinks are a clear source of energy for you to consider in both your training and the actual day of the Ironman triathlon.
As it is a one-day event and a demanding combination of sports, it’s gonna prove incredibly helpful for you to know just how energy drinks can fit into your Ironman regime for maximum gains.
Energy drinks are known to have some less than helpful side effects, but believe me, the more you know about them – the easier it’s gonna get for you to avoid ’em pesky side effects and reap all the benefits instead.
So, let’s figure out how energy drinks work and help you choose the best energy drink for Ironman!
Table of Contents
Can energy drinks improve my performance in the Ironman triathlon?
Energy drinks can improve your performance in the Ironman triathlon because it enhances your stamina and endurance.
This study proves that consuming energy drinks 10 to 60 minutes before exercise can boost concentration, alertness anaerobic and/or endurance performance.
The combination of ingredients in energy drinks have properties to boost your physical and mental abilities which we will view in more detail below.
How do energy drinks affect stamina and endurance?
Energy drinks contain stimulants such as caffeine, guarana and ginseng that can enhance stamina and endurance.
Research shows that energy drinks improve performance in endurance runners as it positively affects both physical and mental stamina.
Another study performed on 15 participants discovered that energy drinks significantly improved the participants’ anaerobic performance and muscle endurance.
Energy drinks also contain other nutritional ingredients i.e. taurine, which is an amino acid, and B-vitamins that have properties that boost athletic performance.
The trinity of swimming, cycling and running in the Ironman triathlon is the ultimate challenge of stamina and endurance.
You’ll be able to understand how energy drinks can improve your abilities during an Ironman triathlon by taking a closer look at its main ingredients.
Caffeine is the main stimulant in energy drinks that creates the jolting energy surge that every mentally exhausted student or fatigued athlete welcomes with open arms.
As the most researched ingredient prevalent in energy drinks, there’s plenty of literature available that proves caffeine has great potential in improving both physical and mental capabilities when consumed properly.
In a study conducted on trained swimmers, it was found that their sprint time increased significantly after the ingestion of caffeine.
As for cycling, known to be the make or break moment of a triathlon, a study on high-intensity endurance cycling proved that caffeine consumption significantly improved exercise performance.
As beneficial as it can be, caffeine – like most things in life, has its ugly side when taken in excess.
Healthline states the side effects of caffeine overdose are:
- Breathing difficulties
- Fast/irregular heartbeat
These side effects can be exacerbated during physical activities. The Ironman triathlon is about as physical as it gets so be very cautious of the caffeine content when choosing an energy drink for body fuel.
Remember not to exceed the maximum daily dose by the FDA of 400mg.
Research on caffeine dosage for optimising sports performance puts the estimated amount of caffeine at 3 – 6 mg per kg of total body weight. This is considered a low to moderate caffeine dose.
By starting on the low end of 3mg/kg of body weight, you can try to slowly up your dose if you’re comfortable.
|Body Weight||Caffeine Dose|
As caffeine tolerance varies from person to person, it’s good to get to know your personal limits with it. For an activity as intense as the Ironman, I recommend keeping your caffeine dose minimal so you’re safe from the less desirable effects of caffeine.
Keep this in mind when choosing the best energy drink for Ironman, for example – REIZE has a very reasonable caffeine content of 50mg that you can have multiple doses of over the course of the triathlon for energy boosts.
Sugar has a bad reputation for being one of the main causes of diabetes, heart problems and obesity. In other words, sugar is usually bad news.
Which is why it’s a good thing sugar-free alternatives are available nowadays.
That’s not to say that you don’t need sugar.
When you sweat or perform intensive exercises, your body needs fuel. Fuel comes from glucose, a simple form of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can come from many sources including whole grains, legumes, fruits and dairy products.
Whether it’s swimming, cycling, running or all three, your body will need carbohydrates (sugar) to keep going. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends taking 100 to 250 calories (25 – 60g of carbs) per hour after the first hour of starting your exercise.
Proper sugar intake will increase your endurance performance and efficiently replenish your energy stores.
In the same way, a haphazard consumption of sugar will lead to undesirable adverse effects that will affect your health and sports performance.
AHA suggests that the daily intake of sugar should be:
|Men||Less than 9tsp (36g)|
|Women||Less than 6tsp (25g)|
A sugar crash is the consequence of a sugar-rich diet.
Based on an article from Mayoclinic, symptoms of a sugar crash (also known as hypoglycaemia) are:
- Fast heartbeat
- Tingling/numbness at the lips, tongue and cheek
- Blurred vision
You undoubtedly don’t want to experience any of these on the day you’re competing in the triathlon.
The best way is to keep your sugar intake between low and moderate. Proper carbo loading and frequent hydration is also important.
Energy drinks contain a number of other ingredients like taurine and ginseng that can contribute to longer endurance and better sport performance.
Taurine is a natural amino acid that your body produces every day.
In energy drinks, taurine is synthetically made and added as a supplement. Taurine is also known to enhance exercise performance and boost sports performance.
In a study conducted on middle-distance runners, it was discovered that the participants in the taurine condition performed better by 1.17% than those who took the placebos.
Ginseng is a type of root that has been used as traditional medicine in Asia and North America for many years. It has been studied as a possible way to improve mood and endurance. Research has found that ginseng is able reduce fatigue.
Also, energy drinks contain a variety of B-vitamins that supplement muscle repair.
As you can see, with a combo of these ingredients, energy drinks will make a great pick-me-up during a long day of intense sports activities.
Can I Drink Gatorade Before The Ironman Triathlon?
Yes, you can drink Gatorade before the Ironman Triathlon. Gatorade is a sport drinks that contains carbohydrates and electrolytes. For this reason, it’s a great source of fuel for the body.
Swimmers are actually recommended to take carbohydrate-rich liquids as they are quickly absorbed by the gut.
Do bear in mind, that both sports drinks and energy drinks should not replace water in your fluid intake. Water is still crucial for rehydration.
However, adding sports drinks into the mix alongside water and energy drinks would be a good idea for the triathlon.
How Do I Keep Myself Hydrated During The Course of the Triathlon?
It is important to keep yourself properly hydrated before, during and after the triathlon.
At least four hours before the triathlon, you must make sure to drink 1 ounce of fluid to every 10 pounds of body weight.
It’s also better if you spread out your fluid intake throughout the event.
Sport drinks are a good way to set your body into high gear before taking an intense swimming event. As sport drinks are rich in sugar and electrolytes, your body will benefit from the fuel these beverages can give you.
Energy gels are also able to provide energy for your body. Energy gels contain simple sugars that your body can easily absorb for a surge of energy.
Energy drinks are another way to get yourself pumped and ready. Packed with a sufficient amount of caffeine and carbohydrates, energy drinks will not only keep you alert but boost your energy levels.
Water will replenish your body’s electrolytes and provide the energy you need to keep going. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine state that the recommended daily water intake is as follows:
|Men||3.7 liters (125 ounces)|
|Women||2.7 liters (91 ounces)|
Webmd states there are many benefits to drinking water:
- Keeps your bodily fluids in balance
- Energises your muscles
- Promotes kidney and bowel health
Coconut water is also another beverage you can take to rehydrate yourself. It is rich in electrolytes and easily consumed in large amounts. Studies have shown that coconut water has the same efficacy in restoring hydration as water does.
If you want to look into the best energy drink for cycling and more about what you’d like to know as a cyclist, read my detailed article of the same title.
Caffeinated beverages are great when it comes to boosting performance before a marathon begins. Drinks like coffee, tea and energy drinks will help you just fine in the energy-boosting department. Research has shown that ingesting moderate quantities of caffeine (3 – 6 mg per kilogram body weight) can produce the best results.
Electrolyte-infused water is another good option to consider as a means of rehydration during a marathon. Rich in electrolytes and carbohydrates, these beverages will ensure you are hydrated and filled with energy for long distances.
I wrote an article dedicated to the best energy drinks for running and get into more detail about other beverage options for the sport.
Best Energy Drinks for Ironman Athletes
Bang Energy Drink
With a whopping amount of caffeine, Bang energy drinks are by far one of the strongest energy drinks in the market.
Also, its got no sugar which is always good in my books.
I personally feel the caffeine levels in this drink are too high as I like to have between 50 – 100 mg per serving of caffeine.
Especially since it’s in a single serving, this probably isn’t the best choice for sustaining you through all three courses of the race.
However, you could try taking it on one of your training days when you wanna get an intense caffeine kick for a shorter burst.
If you’d like to know more about all things Bang and what I personaly think about it, check out my other article where I really get into the nitty gritty of it.
Mountain Dew AMP Original Energy Drink
A product from a well known brand, this energy drink tastes good and has a sugary sweetness to it that would appeal to most.
However, I don’t personally think taste is a sufficient cause for me to risk getting crashes from the high amounts of sugar in this drink. I still prefer my drinks to be sugar-free.
Also, I find the caffeine content in this drink to be on the higher end at 142mg.
I recommend following the FDA’s recommended daily caffeine intake and making sure consumption of this drink is kept moderate.
Matcha Hustle Sparkling Lemon and Lime Energy Drink
I like my energy drinks to be sugar-free and I do like that this drink is all natural and without artificial ingredients.
However, this means no taurine, and I am a huge fan of how taurine helps with our muscles and heart regulation.
For a day of exertion and sports, it would comfort me to have some added taurine in my energy drink to help with my performance.
Caffeine levels are pretty moderate in this drink and is generally not on the risky side.
However, with the Ironman triathlon needing a whole ton of long-lasting endurance, I personally would prefer a drink with less caffeine so I can keep replenishing.
Red Bull Sugarfree Energy Drink
This drinks has a few points that I like. The caffeine levels are pretty reasonable and it’s sugar-free, just how I like it.
80mg of caffeine is a moderate dose that you could find helpful for a pick-me-up for a whole range of activities.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m still gonna say that a lower amount of caffeine spread out over the day is a safer bet for you to get all the physiological perks of caffeine without much risk of backlash.
I recommended reading my article aptly titled ‘Red Bull isn’t bad, but does it really give you wings?‘ so you can find out more about this drink, just note that the article discusses the sugared version.
REIZE Energy Drink
That brings us to, REIZE as my first choice when it comes to energy drinks and definitely the best energy drink for Ironman (in my humble opinion).
It manages to be delicious AND sugar-free.
With a modest dose of just 50mg of caffeine, it allows for plenty of leeway to stay within the low to moderate range of the recommended caffeine allowance. Perfect for you to get the optimum boosts to your sports performance without risking the side effects.
Also, low enough that you can have a few servings during the course of the triathlon.
It contains a smart mix of taurine, ginseng and vitamins that would aid in giving you an energy boost and nutritional benefits.
Curious about why ginseng is an important addition? I cover that in a previous post about the health benefits of ginseng.
It’s also lightweight and easy for you to carry around with your sports gear during the race.
The best part?
It only costs $1, including shipping that delivers straight to your home.
Give REIZE a shot and set yourself up with the boost you need to take home the Ironman title.