Updated: Sep 11
So your race week is here and you maybe wondering how to prepare from a nutrition standpoint. First, as you may have known already, carb-loading is old science and had been debunked in various studies. Yet, it is imperative to "load up" on carbohydrates, good fats, fluids and electrolytes (even to fatten up) a bit a few days before race day .
It is true that your body‘s ability to absorb carbohydrates is limited to a finite amount so it makes no difference if you ate 2000 or 4,000 calories immediately before your race since your body‘s natural ability to digest and store carbs and fats and convert them to glycogen cannot exceed an amount that will last you for an hour to 90 minutes. Glycogen, our primary energy-generating fuel for endurance racing - is stored in the liver and the bonds of muscle tissue, and is derived primarily from the calories we consume. These calories are burned within a periodic cycle, so no matter how much you load, your body would absorb what it needs and the rest would simply go to waste. In endurance sports, such as long distance running and triathlon, a continuous, time-released supply of calories to replenish the depleted glycogen stores is the only way to continue to perform at a racing level and with high performance and velocities, since as explained above, your body can only store a finite amount of it. So, depending on your body‘s metabolic makeup, metabolic burn rate and other physiological factors, you should focus on eating clean nutrients eat, perhaps a bigger ratio of which should consist of carbohydrates and goof fats, and to hydrate properly throughout the week to avoid weakness, cramping and dehydration on race day.
Starting a week or so before your event, the focus should be to avoid fiberous foods, empty calories and any foods that may cause discomfort or constipation. I strongly suggest to avoid alcohol since it's a dehydrater and has a way of throwing your body out of sync - just think hang-over - it's clearly not a good feeling for an athlete before an event. Instead, the focus should be on dense/complex carbohydrates, clean digestible protein sources, fluids and electrolytes.
Also, it is important that your meals are foods you are used to eating to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort. In other words, do not introduce foods that you have not tried before on race week .
Another important aspect of preparing for your race is to focus on fluids. Your personal approximation is individually experienced , however, a minimum 80 ounces (excluding fluids used during your training sessions) is highly recommended. Sip your water throughout the day - it's more doable than gulping water in big amounts to make up.
Additionally, you should make sure to replenish with electrolytes and minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium . You can drink a mix of electrolytes (excluding your training drink) on the days prior to race day to make up for any deficiencies if you have lacked in these. Electrolytes have a tendency not to store for long so a 28-48 hr period would be a reasonable period to replenish your body with those crucial nutrients to avoid cramping and to allow the nutrients to be delivered to your body.
On race day morning, eat an ordinary (lighter) breakfast like you would eat every morning nothing special or different provided that it doesn’t have any fiberous foods or any items that you have not been used to consuming. Additionall, the time when you eat your race day morning meal is crucial to your performance on race day - try to delay your race day meal to a couple hours before jumping in the water. Eating a meal at 3:30 or 4:30 AM before you head out to the venue means by the time your race starts you are hungry again - so delay your meal a bit - a couple hours buffer is a good idea since breakfast is a lighter meal - add a bottle of electrolyte drink to sip on in transition to allow for continuid hydration. Another factor, track your tummy to go to the bathroom early every morning. Some athletes use an early morning smoothie or a shake, others drink a cup of coffee to facilitate their stool and get a good stomach emptying before taking on a long race day. Again, our goal is to avoid any gastrointestinal or bathroom surprises. During the race, by now you should know how many calories you will need for your bike and run leg. The most important policy is to have a time released nutrition continuously to replenish the depleting glycogen stores for continued performance . Your run leg fueling is as crucial as the bike's, although the focus on the run is for lighter gels or fluids mixed with carbs and elcrtuloyes to allow for a lighter stomach during your run . In conclusion, the focus on your nutrition and hydration strata a week ahead of the event, and not on race day!