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Coast to Coast Nutrition

Tom, with input from other Coast to Coast competitors, has written an article covering the basics of what you need to know.

Whether you are a beginner, weekend warrior, or pro, it is no secret that nutrition will play a major role in your enjoyment and performance in the Speights Coast to Coast. Trailblazer Nutrition is the official nutrition information provider for the Coast to Coast, read on for nuggets of wisdom from their nutrition experts, past competitors, and Coast to Coast enthusiasts.

Eating well will keep you healthy during the tough training period, help you train harder, and of course perform better on event day.

This article identifies the 3 key pillars of endurance nutrition and teaches you how to utilise each one to ensure that your nutrition boosts your performance rather than hinders it.

Pillar 1: Everyday Nutrition

Everyday nutrition is very important: you must supply your body with enough nutrients for it to perform its everyday tasks or you will fatigue, get sick, and risk long term injury and illness.

When you throw training for one of the toughest multisport event in the world into the mix, your energy requirements increase. If your day to day diet does not rise to meet these increased training needs, you will eat into the critical nutrient reserve used for everyday living, and not only suffer the health consequences (reduced bone mineral density, impaired immune function, and impaired menstrual function), but compromise training quality [1, 2].

Following these general guidelines on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you provide your body with the best environment to adapt and respond to the challenges of your training programme, and keep you healthy for your busy life.

Eat a variety of nutritious foods

  • Aim for 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Have lean protein at each meal.
  • Balance this with unrefined carbohydrates such as whole grain breads and cereals, rice, wholemeal pasta, and potatoes.
  • Have 2 serves of low fat dairy each day.
  • Incorporate vegetarian protein into your meals.
  • Follow the athletes plate model – 1/3 of your plate veges, 1/3 protein, 1/3 carbohydrates.

Ensure high quality foods

  • Avoid refined carbohydrates such as white breads and cereals, fizzy drinks and juice, baking, lollies, and other sugary foods.
  • Trim the fat from meat before it is cooked and drain fat as you are cooking it.
  • Avoid processed meat
  • Have fresh, unprocessed, unpackaged food as much as possible. Shop the perimeter of the supermarket.
Pillar 2: Exercise specific nutrition

Exercise specific nutrition is ensuring that you provide your body with the right amount, of the right fuel, at the right time, so that your body can thrive on the demands of exercise. By fueling correctly during training you will optimize exercise performance [3], have better quality training sessions, and therefore larger fitness adaptations, so a good fuel plan is not just for event day.

During exercise, your body burns through your fluid and carbohydrate stores, which are relatively small. As these stores deplete, your performance is negatively affected.

  • Ensure you are well fuelled before training starts – have a carbohydrate rich meal about 2 hours before training. If time doesn’t allow this, have an easily digestible snack closer to the time.
  • Carbohydrates’ effect on performance is dose dependent, the more you ingest, the bigger the improvement [4].
  • Amount and type of carbohydrate required is affected by individual requirements, exercise type, and your goals. A personal plan (link) is needed [5].
  • Fluid is lost in sweat and needs to be replaced. Drinking to thirst is the easiest and safest way to ensure adequate hydration [6].
  • Devising an individual plan is necessary during longer training sessions to minimize the weight you carry, and to monitor carbohydrate intake if using a carbohydrate containing sports drink.

Event Day(s)

Your event day plan should be an extension of what you have been doing during training – do not try anything that you have not already trialed.


  • Don’t worry about fluid for the run, what you take with you, you need to carry out, and it won’t affect performance either positively or negatively.
  • See this leg as an opportunity to ensure that you are well set up for the run - it’s easier to eat on the ride, and you want to minimize weight for the mountainous run.
  • Stay 100% hydrated and keep your carbo stores topped up.
  • Think about what combination of real food, gels, sports drink, and water that you require to achieve this.
  • A slushie is a great combination of hydration, fuel, and thermo-regulation and can improve performance [7].


  • Have some carbs in transition, but plan what you want – figure out in training whether you will want real food or gels.
  • Be organized with your support crew, tell them when you expect to arrive, and what options you want readily available.
  • Trailblazer Tip: Get your support crew to lay out your options on a tarp, it makes transporting it for them easier, ensures your tired brain knows exactly what is yours, and keeps the food clean, dry and appetizing.
  • Always have options, you never know what you are going to feel like, even the weather can change your appetite.
  • Trailblazer favourites are: creamed rice, sandwiches, gels, water/electrolyte/carbohydrate drinks, salted warm potatoes, baby food, muesli bars, bananas, hot drinks in a thermos (on a cold day), and flat coke.
  • Cool fluids are more appetizing and can help lower core body temperature, school your support crew on keeping your fluids cold.


Striking a balance between being well fuelled, safety, and minimizing weight is the key to success, so planning is paramount:

  • Have a robust cup tied to your waist for drinking from streams
  • Practise this during training, will it handle being knocked about through bush?
  • Consider how much fluid you really need, with good stream access for the first half, you won’t need to carry as much as you think.
  • Finishing the run a little dehydrated is not the end of the world [8], there is plenty of time to rehydrate overnight for the two dayers, and even those doing the Longest Day can rehydrate in the kayak.


Consider what cooking facilities are available, food storage and transport capabilities, and who will be preparing your food:

  • Snack on carbs, protein and fluid immediately after you finish the run.
  • Muesli bars, creamed rice, sugary drinks, crackers, cheese, nuts and seeds, bananas, baked beans, tuna, flavoured milk.
  • Have a full meal soon after, once again, carbs, protein, and calories in general are what you need:
  • Can your support team keep your protein fresh all day?
  • Smoked and tinned fish options.
  • Cold options
  • Tuna pasta salad.
  • Smoked mackerel couscous.
  • Hot options
  • Rice risotto with chicken.
  • Spag bol, prepare the bolognaise before hand and reheat in a billy.


  • Take on some food during transition from bike to kayak while your hands are free.
  • Tape food to kayak for easy access.
  • Have a hydration hose dangling in the river – practice this first!
  • In addition, have sports drink in a camelpack to keep your carbo levels up.
  • Go for whole foods on this leg, you’ll get sick of gels so save them for the bike.
  • You’re getting to the business end so once again ensure your transition is seamless with a variety of options.


  • This leg is “hammer down” or survival, either way you will need fuel.
  • Know how much fluid and gels you will need, and have them clearly organized.
  • I recommend gels over whole foods for ease of digestion, but have other options available in transition just in case.


The ultimate finish line drink is handed to you by the organisers - enjoy that Speights, you’ve earned it.

Pillar 3: Recovery

A hard training session can set up the potential for a large training adaptation, but this adaptation will not take place unless we provide the right environment. We need to repair our muscles (they get damaged during exercise) and replenish our fuel stores. Studies have shown that we have a window where muscles suck up these fuels the fastest [9], so refueling soon after exercise is important. The types of nutrients is important [9]:

  • Provide lean protein for muscle repair
  • Provide carbohydrates to restock your muscles’ readily availably fuel sources

Also the amount of each nutrient is important, although this differs for each individual [9]. Striking the right balance with a personalized plan (link) will prevent weight gain and optimise recovery.

Continue to include both protein and carbohydrates in all snacks and meals in the 24 hours after training for best results [9].


Nutrition is an often overlooked part of preparing for endurance training, but it is an area where big fitness returns can be gained from just a small amount of extra effort. Don’t let all that time in training go to waste, ensure that you are in the best possible shape to make the most of your hard work, and that you provide your body a nutritious recovery environment. Get your Trailblazer Nutrition plan today.


1) Loucks AB. Low energy availability in the marathon and other endurance sports. Sports Med. 2007;37(4-5):348-52.

2) Burke LM, Loucks AB, Broad N. Energy and carbohydrate for training and recovery. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2006:24 (7): 675-685.

3) Temesi J, Johnson NA, Raymond J, Burdon CA, O’Connor HT. Carbohydrate ingestion during endurance exercise improves performance in adults. J Nutr. 2011: 141: 890-897

4) Smith JEW, Zachwieja JJ, Péronnet F, Passe DH, Massicotte D, Lavoie C, Pascoe DD. Fuel selection and cycling endurance performance with ingestion of 13C]glucose: evidence for a carbohydrate dose response. J Appl Physiol 2010: 108: 1520-1529.

5) Coyle EF. Fluid and fuel intake during exercise. Journal of Sports Sciences: 2004 22 (1).

6) Noakes T. Waterlogged: The serious problem of overhydration in endurance sports. 2010; pp 58. Champaign: Human Kinetics.

7) Stevens CI, Dascombe B, Boyko A, Sculley D, Callister R. Ice slurry ingestion during cycling improves olympic distance triathlon performance in the heat. J sports sci. 2013 mar 18.

8) Sharwood KA, Collins M, Goedecke JH et al. Weight changes, medical complications, and performance durng an ironman triathlon. Br. J Sports Med. 2004; 38, 718-724

9) Beelen M, Burke LM, Gibala MJ, Van Loon LJC. Nutritional strategies to promote postexercise recovery. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 2010.