Fueling a Sprint Triathlon

Since I started on TrainerRoad in January I’ve been listening to the fuelling advice on the podcast and trying to take on approx 80g of carb an hour in EVERY workout.

I’ve been pretty strict about this so far but I have a sprint triathlon next week and I’m wondering what the most efficient way of getting fuel on is? Do I carry a bottle? Smash down gels?

I’ve done fasted workouts in the past but not for some time and so I’m a little apprehensive about making sure I can perform to my best on race day - even though it’s not my A race.

Any advice welcome.

I don’t bother, not enough time for it to make a difference and the added weight on the bike isn’t helpful.


A decent breakfast should do the trick.


Put a gel on your bike. There if you decide to use it. I did in my first tri. Probably did not need it but using it provided a mental confidence boost.


Have a decent breakfast about 3hrs before. Porridge / granola / fruit etc.

I used to have a gel / Clif block before grabbing my bike plus a swig of water / electorlytes in T1. Then the same again in T2. Although depending on your run time, the gel/block won’t really have time to play its part but it’s a good placebo if nothing else.

Unless it’s really hot, then I’d have a bottle on the bike.

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A good breakfast 2-3 hours out and something easily digestible 15-30 mins before race start (I generally do a gel or rice cake) has always been plenty for me.

I sometimes have a bar in transition just to have a bite of as I get on the bike and the other half when I start the run. It’s definitely more of a mental thing, but having something to munch on seems to reduce RPE for me


In a recent sprint tri I was watching quite a few of the earlier swimmers come through T1 as I was waiting for my swim; one of the biggest mistakes they were making was messing around taking drinks etc. in transition. In a sprint tri you want to be getting through T1 and T2 as quick as you can, so if you’re going to have a drink, do it on the move on the bike!

For sprints I tend to half fill a bottle with a carb drink (something like water mixed with High5 energy powder) and just have a couple of drinks during the bike leg. No gels needed.


Transitions more key as the event gets shorter.

I’ll do all that’s recommended above with breakfast/warm-up nutrition and then do something like Nuun Endurance on the Bike. Then I just leave it to the on-course aid stations for the run.

If you are going to complete the race in under 75 or so minutes, I wouldn’t bother with anything. Maybe a little bit of water from an aid station on the run. I might have a bottle in transition to take a sip from during T1 and T2, but only if it’s really hot. Otherwise, no drink, no gel, nothing during the event - you don’t really need it. Hell, I don’t even have a bottle cage on my bike for a sprint.

Eat a good breakfast (fancied up oatmeal works well for me) a few hours before, then take a gel 10-15 minutes before the start.

You also don’t really need to do this for 60 minute workouts assuming your meals and fueling outside your workouts are good. 320 calories in a one-hour workout is a lot. You should be able to get by with just water, or something like a Skratch bottle for 80-100 calories. If it’s a 90 minute workout, then start fueling like that, but you just don’t need 80g of carbs for most of the workouts in the sprint tri plan.

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Thanks for this - good advice.

The only reason I’ve been trying to fuel many of the one hour workouts is that I’m doing the half distance plan and feel I need to keep my energy levels up - especially for the days where I have more than one workout on the calendar. I find it helps me bounce from one day to the next (but maybe I’ve listened to too much @Nate_Pearson).

But, that said, when I started training I was SO UNFIT that I physically couldn’t get through one hour of sweet spot without taking on extra sugar and so I basically got into the habit.

When I start a new training block I’m going to try a few more fasted rides, but that can wait until after I’ve got my A races out of the way.

I’m using this sprint event to help me practice transitions - its my first race of the year and only my third ever triathlon, so I’m still a newbie but very grateful for all the advice from everyone on here.

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I’d concur with the others with one caviat - If your finish time is approaching an hour.

However, if your finishing time is nearer two hours you will have time for a gel or two on the bike.

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Just so I’m clear, I don’t recommend doing intense workouts fasted necessarily. That is, you can be properly fueled coming in - eat your breakfast a couple of hours prior, whatever your schedule dictates. I’m strictly talking about taking in the 80g of carbs during a one-hour workout or during your sprint race (assuming a finishing time of 75 min or less).

The only workouts I personally do fasted are easy sessions like Pettit, Carter, Baxter, etc. But I’ll do the 1-hour sweet spot jobbers with nothing but water. Once I get into threshold+, I like to have some Skratch in my bottle too.

Now, as a triathlete doing two-a-days, you can make a case for fueling more, just not necessarily during your workouts. In my experience, I find I have better success taking in more calories between workouts or in a more calorie-dense recovery drink than I do taking in gels/sports drink during the shorter workouts. So I might do an hour in the pool in the morning without anything, but I’ll have a bigger breakfast, or a mid-morning snack after my recovery drink to try to replenish for the afternoon run.

In any case, best of luck! Please ask more questions if you’ve got them!