No matter how hard you train and prepare for your triathlon race, if you forget nutrition, you will not get your best race day time. Nutrition the night before and the morning of a race are critical to feeling your best on race day.
Why is race day nutrition important?
On race day you want your blood glucose concentration and liver glycogen stores to be high. This brings down cortisol levels in your body and releases insulin. The insulin then delivers carbohydrates to your muscles and helps maintain your endurance.
Not having proper nutrition can lead to four negative side effects on race day:
• Hypernatremia, over hydration resulting in an electrolyte imbalance
• Hypoglycemia, low blood sugar
• Stomach bloating, consuming to many fiber-rich foods
• Bonking, depleting fuel reserves leaving you feeling light-headed, dizzy, and without energy
The best idea for having the optimal race day nutrition is to practice. If you have an early morning start, take time to train that early in the morning and practice eating ahead of time. See what settles well in your stomach and what feels the best while you are exercising. Nutrition is not something to consider at the last minute for your race, you should be well prepared about what you will eat the night before and the morning of the race. You need to experiment and practice to learn what works best for your body.
You will want to eat in time for your body to process the nutrients.
• Your last meal the night before a race should occur 12 hours before start time.
• Typically, you will need to eat breakfast three hours before start time.
• The amount you eat will depend on the duration of your race and your size
Drinking enough water to remain properly hydrated is very important for the triathlete. The key is to be well hydrated before the race starts. About two hours before the race start, begin taking in small sips of water and not large quantities. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to begin taking fluids. That indicates you are not well hydrated. Consistent hydration throughout the race will have a positive impact on your race time and how you feel overall. A sports drink during the race can also be helpful to replace lost electrolytes. Know the symptoms of dehydration: nausea, cramping, vomiting, and fatigue.
Ideas for the evening before a race
A mistake some athletes make is eating too big of a meal the evening before a race. Carbohydrate loading is important, but you need to be conscious of going too far.
• Whole wheat pasta and with a small amount of protein
• Brown rice
• Peanut Butter on whole wheat bread
• Greek Yogurt
• Bake Potato
Ideas for the morning of the race
Sometimes pre-race jitters factor into your choice of breakfast food. Triathletes might choose to have a liquid meal that is easier to digest on race morning. The best way to know how your body will respond is to practice ahead of time. A mistake many first-time triathletes make is not eating the morning of a race. Over the course of the night your body uses up carbohydrate stores and it is important to replace them the morning of the race.
• High carb replacement drink
• Breakfast shake
• Energy bars
• Whole grain toast or bagel
• In the days leading up to a race, you are well advised not to eat any food that is new to you. You don’t want to have something sit wrong leading up to the race, so stick with foods your body knows.
• Your stomach will probably do best with bland, non-spicy, non-fibrous foods.
• Do not eat too much fiber the day before a race. You do not want your digestive system in overdrive on race day.
• Eating a high-carbohydrate diet the week leading up to the race is beneficial.
Preparing your nutrition ahead of race day ensures that you are providing your body with the best tools to have a successful race.