All too often I’ve seen athletes looking to PR — or even win their Kona slot – who end up being plagued by nutritional problems that prevent them from reaching their goals.
Does this sound like you? If so, then read on to avoid these 4 common hazards and nail your race-day nutrition strategy for a winning performance:
1. You Overdo the Fluid Replacement Drinks Before the Race
Don’t drink fluid replacement drinks for your pre-race breakfast or on the day before the race. This can cause an excessive amount of electrolytes and sugar to flood your system. I’ve heard numerous stories of athletes guzzling down a 1.5 liters of water or a sports drink the night before, only to be faced with explosive bowels on race day!
2. You Eat Late Dinners Leading Up to the Race
Eat an early dinner the last two nights before the race. This will allow a 10-hour transit time between dinner completion and breakfast. For example, with a 7 a.m. race start, plan your dinner the night before to be done by 6:30 pm, then eat breakfast at 4:30 am. By eating early you’ll make sure to have most of the food settled and out of your system before the race start.
3. You Drink and Eat Too Much During the Race
Be sure to train with the same nutrition that you’ll use in the race. Use “like intensity” training to replicate race conditions. Your total calories, total fluid volume and electrolyte replacement should be the same and taken at the same intervals. Aid stations aren’t buffet tables. Don’t combine gummy bears, waffles, potatoes, soft drinks, etc. There is a preponderance of food and fluids at the aid stations. Rookies overeat and overdrink during the race because they’re anxious. Don’t be that athlete!
The number one biggest mistake I see people making is ingesting too many calories on the bike, and most coming from sports drinks. Mark your water bottles with a Sharpie at the 25%, 50% and 75% levels when you train and race. This will help you to drink in measured, uniform amounts each hour. Be careful not to overdo it with a water bottle chock full of calories or electrolytes. I recall a triathlete who had mixed a hearty carbohydrate solution containing 1400 calories into one water bottle! The concentration was way too high — even with modest sips followed by water – and she paid for it 3 hours later by being reduced to a walk.
I’d rather have you under-eat than overeat… it’s much easier to correct the former during a race.
4. You Eat & Drink in T-1 or Right as You Get onto Your Bike
The second most common mistake I see is triathletes taking in excessive calories in T-1 and during the first 30 minutes of the bike. Recognize that you’re not a camel! You can’t load up on calories and fluids for later. Don’t eat or drink anything in T-1 and then wait 15 to 20 minutes into the bike before taking in any calories. This allows you to get into your cycling rhythm, stabilize your heart rate, and let your stomach settle after the swim.
Keep your nutrition choices simple and consistent on race day.
Try implementing these tips over the course of your training and upcoming races and let me know how it goes. Nutritional problems undermine even the best athletes so – if you have questions – please send them my way.