Let’s talk race day nutrition.
You invest the time into training, the money into the latest gear and tech, but do you have a solid race day nutrition plan? With Great White North only 2 months away, now is the time to make sure you have a good plan in place for race day, not during taper week. There’s a reason nutrition is often referred to as the 4th sport in triathlon – failing to fuel properly can cost you your race. Master your race day fuel plan with these 5 tips.
Tip #1 – Take in Enough Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel source during exercise. In situations where you will be racing for greater than 90 minutes (or 60 minutes at a high intensity), carbohydrates need to be taken in at regular intervals to avoid depleting glycogen stores and “hitting the wall.” For Olympic Distance athletes, aim for 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour. For Half Distance athletes, aim for 60- 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Choose a combination of carbohydrate-containing fluids, gels, gummies and/or solid foods in varying flavors to avoid flavor fatigue. If choosing solid foods (bars, etc.), choose foods high in carbohydrates and lower in fibre, fat and protein to avoid stomach upset.
Tip #2 – Meet Fluid Needs
Arrive hydrated and drink small amounts at regular intervals (every 10-20 minutes) to match sweat losses. Choose a sodium-containing fluid to replace salt lost through sweat, as well as help with fluid absorption. Your fluid source should also contain carbohydrates to help meet carbohydrate needs. Aim for about 400-800 ml of fluid per hour, depending on your individual sweat rate. Ensure you are taking in enough, but not too much fluid, which can result in a rare, but dangerous condition called hyponatremia.
Tip #3 – Start Early
Begin fueling early, not when you feel your energy levels starting to crash. Start fueling within 10-15 minutes of being on the bike and at regular intervals thereafter. Some athletes may also wish to take something prior to the swim start if breakfast was light and/or was taken several hours prior.
Tip #4 – Ensure Access to Fuel
Once you figure out what, how much and how often you will be taking foods and fluids, it’s important to make sure you are capable of accessing the fuel you need at the right time. Ensure your race nutrition plan aligns with what you are capable of carrying on the bike/run, what the aide stations offer and/or what you have laid out for yourself at each transition point.
Tip #5 – Practice!
The golden rule of racing is nothing new on race day. During training sessions, particularly those that are longer and/or mimic race pace, practice the timing, type and amount of the foods/fluids you intend to use on race day. If you plan on taking the nutrition offered on course, ensure you’ve trialed it during training to ensure it is tolerated. It is also important to practice taking your foods and fluids without stopping (especially when you are fatigued). The last thing you want on race day is to get on your bike and realize you can’t confidently pull your water bottle out from behind you (or put it back). Lastly, don’t forget to practice your pre-race food intake around long training sessions to ensure these foods sit well in your stomach.
Good luck and happy training!
Stay tuned for monthly nutrition tips for better health & performance. Amanda Leendertse is a Registered Dietitian, runner, triathlete and owner of Fueled Fork Inc. in Sherwood Park, AB. To learn more about Amanda and the services she provides visit: fueledfork.com