Ah, the mind game of pre-race nutrition. This is not your average pre-triathlon race nutrition article. Let’s get real simple!
Nutrition for peak human performance can always rattle the brain.
We all want to be our best but sometimes that desire gets a little out of hand and thinking too much about this can get us in trouble.
Often, people feel the pressure to stray away from their normal eating patterns just before donning their wetsuits because an article recommends a certain way of eating.
DON’T FALL VICTIM TO THIS.
I am here to tell you to KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Table of Contents
Pre Triathlon Nutrition
Changing our regimen before race day can either result in a massive gut bomb leaving us unable to perform or bonking before the last, most difficult part of the race.
Both are extremely disappointing as we all know how much effort goes into getting ourselves on that start line.
There are endless articles out there on what the best or proper way of fuelling before a triathlon event is.
I want to begin this one with stressing the fact that each person’s body and needs are very individual. Some people prefer to supplements (such as a fat burner) to get them an advantage on race day while others prefer a smoothie.
We all have different eating habits and genetic make up which makes one person’s usual someone else’s never.
What may work for one athlete, may not work for another.
It is a game of trial and error.
As a frequent researcher and reader of all articles related to sports, nutrition, and performance, as it pertains to triathlon, if one article recommends eating a bagel and a banana 2 hours before the whistle blows and I don’t normally eat these foods in my day to day regimen of training, will I eat these foods? NO WAY.
Food – Pre Triathlon Nutrition
Yes, we do want the focal point of our pre race meal to be carbohydrates. No surprises there! Carbs are our friends before race day, just don’t let the nerves get to you and go overboard.
The point here is to keep it simple and familiar. Don’t stray away from your norm. If you are training your first triathlon ever, start thinking about a pre race food routine you can stick to.
That way, as race day approaches, you know exactly what to do and exactly what will work to take away some of the stress and nerves. Compare a race to one of your hardest training days, what worked then?
Start developing your plan around this.
You want to be sure your glycogen stores are filled two days prior to your event. The night
before a race is not the time to “load” up, especially for those who have more sensitive digestion.
If anything, eating a bigger breakfast and lunch the day before race morning is the way to go.
This way you ensure full digestion and your glycogen stores are topped off and ready to rocket.
If you think about the amount of stress you are going to put your body through during the race, you don’t want any extra energy going toward digestion.
Although you may not realize it, if you eat something out of the ordinary or anything more than usual, your body will spend more energy on digestion than keeping your body firing top notch on all cylinders.
Keep this in mind!
Simple Day before race plan
- Bigger breakfast/Lunch- 80 percent of the calories you consume in your pre-race meal should come from carbohydrates. Keep your protein and especially your fat and fiber consumption low.
- Early Normal/Simple dinner- only about 60 to 80 grams of carbohydrates, a serving of protein and healthy fats.
- Snacks-easily digestible whole foods that are carb focused and low in fiber and fat.
Simple Morning of sample plan
- If possible eat 4 hours before toeing the line to ensure proper digestion. Keep it light and eat just enough carbohydrates to top of your stores. Think around 300-500 calories.
Hydration – Before a Triathlon
It seems the sports drink industry is geared more towards palatability than osmolality. What can our bodies actually absorb and use when it is under the stress of a triathlon race?
This is another area that can be overwhelming, as there are countless sports drinks with all sorts of different nutrition make ups.
I am here to remind you again, keep it simple.
There are some great resources that break down the body processes and truths about proper hydration techniques.
One that I have found the MOST beneficial and has proven reliable both through experience and science is Dr. Stacy Sims.
A little introduction to the article linked above. It is worth a read.
“If you’ve ever been confused standing in front of a sports drink display, you’re not alone.
Dr. Stacy Sims, an environmental exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist specializing in sex differences of heat and/or altitude stress, recovery, genetics, and nutrition to moderate adaptive responses for performance.
Stacy is a senior research fellow at The University Of Waikato and the author of ROAR, which helps women understand and work with their physiology for better performance.
That’s not to say that there’s no information in here for men.
Stacy passionately explains the why’s and when’s of fuelling, hydration and more for both men and women.
She will help you re-evaluate your fuelling and hydration strategy to provide more optimal results.”
Dr. Stacy Sims zones in on the fact that our guts are already compromised during high intensity efforts such as a triathlon race.
The goal is to top off our electrolyte stores the week before the event, so when we arrive on race day our bodies are fully prepared for a hammer sesh and our guts are at ease.
What happens when we try to load the electrolytes and salt tablets directly before or during a triathlon?
We need fluid before food from a functionality and physiological standpoint. 95% of fluid absorption takes place in the small intestines.
Our intestines, as I am sure you can attest to, are very tempermental, especially when under hypoxic and heat stress during a triathlon.
The goal is to maintain blood volume during a race.
If we are to throw down an entire gel pack filled with sugar and electrolytes at once, this triggers fluid to come into the gut rather than out of the gut, which causes the dreaded GI stress.
In conclusion, keep it simple, keep it familiar, and start developing a plan that is individual to you and the foods you consume on a regular basis.