The ease of liquid calories is apparent in Triathlon racing. I did it, but again, found it did nothing but make me sloshy, bloated, cramping, and caused the Ironman “shuffle” regardless of my distance. Which is why I started playing around back in the late 1990’s with my own nutrition. The evolution is what you see now, OSMO for hydration with food for fuel.

Now, so many triathletes of all abilities ask me how to fuel and hydrate, since they too are tired of the expected bloat and subsequent post-race unpleasant gassy/bloat discomfort (as are their partners!). I tend to work one-on-one with people, but instead of holding the info close to my chest, I thought I’d share the general schematic of how Osmo can work in a triathlon scene.

I hope the following details will help clarify a few things for you!

First, Osmo is not a calorie source per se. Yes it does have ~70 calories per 16oz., but the sugars in it are functional- i.e., the glucose and sucrose help in intestinal physiology to maximized fluid uptake. Traditional sports drinks and liquid nutrition (Gatorade, Perform, Cytomax, Infinit, Hammer) do not. The concentration of carbohydrates and makeup (glucose, maltodextrin and fructose) of these products allow for maximum carbohydrate absorption with a bit of fluid absorption. Moreover, the fructose can cause a reverse of water flux in the intestines. What I mean by this is that a large titration of fructose into the intestines at once can cause an increase in the osmotic pressure- the response of the body to reduce this pressure is to dump water into the higher concentration/pressure area- this will then allow diluted fructose mix to go through the hepatic vein into the liver where it is then processed– this is why people expect sloshing and bloating in a triathlon- they believe it is a typical aspect of  racing. Not so!! (See the previous post: Sugar(s): What about Maltodextrin and Fructose?)

The BARS are okay as a convenient fuel source for sure (real food is much better), but NEVER GELS! Energy chews are okay as well, but wait until the run to start these.

Ideally, I’d LOVE to have OSMO on course for everyone, but… to make the most of a less than ideal situation, here is what I have my athletes do for an Ironman; for Olympic to 70.3, the schematic is the same, just no special needs!

At T1:

You’ve just been swimming for ~an hour and glycogen levels will be a bit low, as will your body water. 2 goals at T1: solid food and hydrating before jumping on the bike. At the transition, have a bottle of Osmo Active that has been frozen overnight (if a hot race). Swig a few gulps, grab your solid food (bar, protein bites, sandwich) to eat the first ~5km of the ride- as you get up to pace. This will front load you for the second half of the bike.

Start with frozen bottles on your bike (they will be semi solid by the time you exit the swim) of OSMO Active. Single serves in your pocket to dump into ice water from the aid stations (ideal) OR use their Perform chased with a bit of water. The catch up on electrolytes for this dilution method is to have secret stashes in the special needs bags (sodium +fluid load in SpNeeds and at T2).

Special Needs bag bike turnaround:  In this bag, it would be ideal to have 2 of the insulated bottles which have been frozen overnight, and if possible, the outside wrapped in foil as well (Trying to get as much insulation as possible for a hot race!) In one bottle- ½ strength Osmo PreLoad mix (for sodium+fluid load), the other Osmo Active.  Also have a salty real sandwich- i.e. marmite or olive tapenade between white bread OR jam sprinkled with salt on white bread.

In your pockets, you should always have tums—take tums every 30-40km on the return–> you want the extra calcium to help prevent any cramping AND I have yet to meet a 70.3 to Ironman competitor who hasn’t felt a bit queasy in the first 3-5 miles of the run—shifting of blood and all of a sudden the pounding on the gut and leg muscles can cause this- the goal is to minimize this, and Tums is key.

at T2:

To prep for the run, it would be ideal to have another salty sandwich at T2 if possible. This can be sea salted focaccia bread (like dinner rolls, but then you don’t have to worry about smushed sandwich or any refrigeration factors) or soft pretzel bites- grab it, couple of bites, stash in pocket or ditch it. Tums in your pocket. Glucose Tablets in your pocket.  Icy sodium+fluid load—1/4 strength PreLoad with ½ strength Osmo Active frozen in an insulated bottle–>swig it and bring it with you for the first 2-3 miles of the run.

Race Prep and Race Day:

During Taper Weeks (2-3 weeks)- stick to your usual recovery food after every training session- even though you are doing low volume with a bit of intensity, stick to the 30 min protein and 2 hour glycogen window. THEN 2-3 hours post session, hit it again with another 20-25 g protein.

During these weeks, “top up” on the essential-to-racing electrolytes:  per day: 100mg magnesium, 200mg calcium; 200mg potassium, 800mg sodium. You can also consider using Trace Mineral Research tablets or Endure. (Nope, I don’t have any affiliation with them, but this is something very useful leading up to IM distance racing!).




Pre-Race: Have your normal race breakfast.

10 ml per kg Osmo PreLoad finishing ~20 min before race start. Water as you want.



Bike- first 1/2

(Fluid- 0.18-0.2 oz per pound per hour)

Fluid- OSMO Active is the first choice. Ad hoc is electrolyte drink on the course- if you are able, dilute a bit on course by chasing with water or 2/3 course drink with 1/3 water into speedfill. Water is fine for pouring over your forearms and head. Food: for this sector, solid food; 3.5-4 calories per hour.


Special Needs:

See above. Food- stay away from dried fruit and fruit heavy foods; the fructose will kill you as will the fiber, when it comes to the run.


Bike: second 1/2

Same fluid and calorie need, if you need to switch to chews, try to hold off until last hour of bike.

Caffeine additive to try: green tea extract in your bottle of Active.

Electrolyte tablets- shouldn’t need them, but if you need to have a cushion, use the Trace Mineral Research tablets.







See notes on T2.


Run- First 1/2

Fluid needs: 0.18-0.2 oz per pound per hour ; Calories: 3-3.5 calories per kg per hour (yes a bit lower than the bike- here you want to minimize stuff in your stomach, and on the last 1/3 of the run, the idea is to keep blood sugar up via quick hits of sugar- glucose tablets, jelly beans, chews..)

Drink the Osmo from the bottle you have with you.  Tums- 2-4 tablets every hour. 

On course: Course drink  and Water for fluid- ½ and ½.

Food: on course- bites of pretzels, in pocket: honeystinger waffles,  or salted jam sandwich bites, or protein bites; Hold off on chews until second ½ of run if possible. If not, then alternate pretzel bites with chews or sports beans.


Special Needs

Grab another bottle of OSMO Active with 1 tablespoon PreLoad mixed in—electrolyte and fluid load!!! Also, if needed, grab additional food.


Run- Second 1/2

Fluid the same as first half.

Food: you can move to chews, sports beans then last 10-12 km, 1 glucose tablet every 5-7 min.

If needed- Trace mineral research tablet- 2 per hour

Tums- 2-4 per hour.

Caffeine use: Coke is fine;  You can also consider adding green tea extract to the bottles you carry and pick up;

Avoid caffeine tablets!!