Energy balance of triathletes during an ultra-endurance event

Nutrients. 2014 Dec 31;7(1):209-22. doi: 10.3390/nu7010209.


The nutritional strategy during an ultra-endurance triathlon (UET) is one of the main concerns of athletes competing in such events. The purpose of this study is to provide a proper characterization of the energy and fluid intake during real competition in male triathletes during a complete UET and to estimate the energy expenditure (EE) and the fluid balance through the race.

Methods: Eleven triathletes performed a UET. All food and drinks ingested during the race were weighed and recorded in order to assess the energy intake (EI) during the race. The EE was estimated from heart rate (HR) recordings during the race, using the individual HR-oxygen uptake (Vo2) regressions developed from three incremental tests on the 50-m swimming pool, cycle ergometer, and running treadmill. Additionally, body mass (BM), total body water (TBW) and intracellular (ICW) and extracellular water (ECW) were assessed before and after the race using a multifrequency bioimpedance device (BIA).

Results: Mean competition time and HR was 755 ± 69 min and 137 ± 6 beats/min, respectively. Mean EI was 3643 ± 1219 kcal and the estimated EE was 11,009 ± 664 kcal. Consequently, athletes showed an energy deficit of 7365 ± 1286 kcal (66.9% ± 11.7%). BM decreased significantly after the race and significant losses of TBW were found. Such losses were more related to a reduction of extracellular fluids than intracellular fluids.

Conclusions: Our results confirm the high energy demands of UET races, which are not compensated by nutrient and fluid intake, resulting in a large energy deficit.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletes*
  • Bicycling
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Drinking
  • Electric Impedance
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Exercise Test
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Endurance*
  • Running
  • Sodium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Swimming
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance


  • Sodium, Dietary