The Ironman is a 17-hour long endurance triathlon event originally held in Hawaii by the Ironman organization but now takes place worldwide. There are many triathlon events that are the Ironman distance that are marketed under different names. The Ironman distance is an amazing challenge that will push your body to its limits.
The distance alone—a whopping 140.6 miles is enough to make the average athlete quiver in their trainers. But to complete a triathlon of this distance, the complexity of performing in three different disciplines means you had better get your ducks in order if you want to perform at your best (2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile run).
Like most triathlons, the events are split between a swim, bike and run. The Ironman however, is brutal. Not only is it a pure test of strength and endurance, but you had also better be fast, since every event has a timed cutoff. You have to finish the swim phase in less than 2 hours and 20 minutes, the cycling phase in less than 10 hours and 30 minutes and the run by the 17th hour or midnight. Oh and to make matters worse, no music is allowed, so the only company you get is the grind.
Considering the sheer difficulty of this event, it makes sense to get as much possible advantage as possible to make it just a bit easier and get the best odds on your side. This article will give you three supplements that work well together to get you that little bit of an edge.
FURTHER READING: If you’re going to be one of the very few athletes who have the grit to tackle such a grueling sport, high quality supplementation is vital to your success. Why not check out our blog The Top 3 Supplements for Triathlon to read about the other supplements we would suggest for Triathletes of any distance in general.
The Top 3 Supplements For Ironman
Below is our list of well-researched effective supplements that will benefit an ironman distance athlete. They simultaneously improve your high-force outputs and your endurance making them a great combination for the type of events you will deal with:
Beta alanine is an underestimated non-essential beta-amino acid that is among the most effective endurance supplements. It is a modified version of the amino acid alanine, and when you consume it, it turns into carnosine, which is stored in cells and protects against drops in pH as well as reducing lactic acid production.
As you guessed, it’s that last bit that matters the most for you. Lactic acid buildup can be problematic for most athletes but especially endurance athletes. Even if you can push through the burning sensation it creates, it eventually slows you down at a physiological level, so the reduction you get from a beta-alanine supplement can help your keep going for longer.
To be clear, like most supplements the effect size you might notice will be relatively low. We aren’t talking about 30% improvements here, not even anabolic steroids can do that for you. A meta-analysis that pooled together the results of several studies on endurance training performance and beta-alanine found an increase in muscular endurance of 3%. Now that might not sound like much, but considering the price of the supplement, it’s the easiest improvement you will ever get for your money.
On top of that, although it is likely due to an increased work capacity, beta-alanine has also been shown to increase hypertrophy. All else equal, a more jacked version of you is going to swim, cycle and run faster and longer.
Citrulline bound to malate—a salt of malic acid, which is an intermediate in the acid citric cycle—is a well-researched supplement that can be used to improve your performance either directly or indirectly. Although it is similar to L-citrulline they are not the same supplement, and their effects and dosages are not to be confused.
Researchers have found that citrulline malate can help prevent ammonia accumulation to some extent. When ammonia accumulates, it starts to hinder your muscles' ability to contract, which invariably slows down your physical performance.
In a study, researchers compared the performance of two groups of lifters; they gave one of the groups a placebo, and the other group a high of citrulline malate. These lifters were tasked to perform eight AMRAP sets—as many repetitions as possible. Although their initial performance did not increase, the group that was supplementing was capable of outperforming the placebo group by getting more repetitions in the last four sets. This indicates that citrulline malate helps mitigate fatigue and enables you to maintain your performance for a longer duration. Furthermore, the improvement was quite substantial, almost a 53% increase of total repetitions in the supplement group, although there was a decent amount of individual variability.
If you think that this is limited to lifting weights, you’d be wrong. Several studies dealing with endurance-type training found similar results. One study made two groups—one placebo and one supplementing—run until exhaustion and they compared the results. Unsurprisingly, the groups that were supplementing with citrulline malate managed to sustain that effort for longer than the placebo groups. Granted, for this type of sustained long duration training the results were not anywhere near that 53% improvement, but they still were meaningful.
The benefits don’t stop there, some studies seem to show that it also helps your oxygen uptake and muscle oxygenation rates, it improves your ability to generate ATP, it reduces soreness, it improves blood flow, and many other small but consistent effects.
Good old coffee—or rather the caffeine it contains—is one of the most studied supplements out there. Its effectiveness, both in high-intensity and endurance exercise, is well established. For instance, researchers took well-trained cyclists and split them into two groups. They gave them either 3mg or 6mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight and then trained them at 75% V02 max for an hour. Both groups improved their performance, 2.9%, and 4.2% respectively.
That is just one of the many, many studies out there. Caffeine has been consistently shown to improve fat oxidation, work capacity, insulin sensitivity, improved blood flow, and even decreases fatigue. Any of these findings alone would justify consuming such a cheap supplement.
Dosages and Timing
Although you can buy every one of these supplements separately, measure them and dose them separately, we at Icon Nutrition, provide you with a great solution that combines the right dosages of each of these supplements in one single product.
ICON Nutrition's Ignite pre-workout contains high-quality ingredients and every scoop contains 2g of beta-alanine, 3.5g of citrulline malate, and 250mg of caffeine. Simply take a scoop with your favorite drink 30-60 minutes before the start of your training session and enjoy performing at your best.
Whether you choose to use all of the previous supplements or just one of them, you have to make sure that you pick a high-quality source. At Icon Nutrition, we follow the highest standards, our supplements are GMO-free and are locally made.