Properly fueling your body is the first step to a great race.
By Rebecca Marks Rudy
Two Weeks Out from Race Day
With only a couple of weeks left until race day, your training volume should start to decrease and your appetite may diminish as a result. On the one hand this is helpful, as that reaction is a natural protection against gaining a couple of unwanted pounds. On the other hand, when watching your intake you want to ensure that you maintain an effective training diet—complete with lean protein such as poultry, fish, eggs and soy; energy-yielding complex carbohydrates including oatmeal, baked potatoes and whole grain breads; healthful fats like nuts, nut butters and vegetable oils; low-fat dairy foods like yogurt, cheese or milk (or dairy substitutes such as soy products); and a variety of nutrient-filled fruits and vegetables from mangoes and bananas to tomatoes and broccoli.
One Week Out from Race Day
Despite the urge to carbo-load the week before the race, you need not alter your eating plan drastically for an Olympic distance event if you are already following a diet with approximately 60 percent of your energy coming from carbohydrates. Another way to estimate your energy requirements is to calculate at least 3 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 165 pounds, you can aim to include approximately 500 grams of carbohydrate in your daily plan. Note that one New York-sized bagel may contain 75 grams of carbohydrate, a cup of cooked pasta: 40 grams, a six-ounce baked potato: 35 grams, a cup of orange juice: 30 grams, a six-ounce cup of low-fat fruit yogurt: 25 grams, one medium banana: 15 grams.
Day Before the Race
First of all, you want to be well hydrated. To be quite frank, the best indication of being hydrated is frequent and clear urination. In addition to taking in clear fluids throughout the day (water, herbal tea, decaffeinated coffee), you will want to avoid food and drink that might cause gastrointestinal distress. Such foods are individual and may include high-fiber choices such as bran cereals and dried fruits; acidic or cruciferous items such as oranges or broccoli respectively; high-fat selections such as fries or cheese-laden pizza; and rich sources of protein such as fatty red meats. To promote digestibility, have smaller tried-and-true meals and snacks throughout the day at roughly two to three hour intervals.
Practice your pre-race meal many times before race day. You’ll want to make sure you are able to eat with pre-race jitters, so establish what foods and drinks you can tolerate early in the morning. Leave an hour for every 200 calories you take in before the race to ensure that you don’t begin on a full stomach. If your wave goes off at 7 a.m. and your pre-race meal is planned for 5 a.m., you should be able to take in 400 calories at that time. Easy-to-digest solids include plain bagels, bananas, cream of wheat, graham crackers and pretzels. If you prefer an all or semi-liquid meal, you might try 16 ounces sports drink, combined with two gel packets spaced out over a couple of hours and followed with at least 16 ounces of plain water.
During the Race
Heading into the swim you should be well hydrated without feeling water sloshing in your stomach. If your belly is still full with liquid within half an hour of the start, don’t take in any more. Do avoid taking in too much of the Hudson (it is quite salty, by the way), and rinse your mouth with some fresh water at the transition area.
The bike leg is the best opportunity to take in some fuel and to maintain your hydration. You can aim to take in 200 to 300 calories per hour on the bike, as well as the run, provided your gut can handle it. This translates into about 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates. If you choose to do this through sports drink alone, at 50 calories and nearly 15 grams of carbohydrate per eight ounces, you would aim to take in 32 ounces of Gatorade (or a comparable product) each hour. If you prefer a more concentrated form of calories, gel packets are your best bet. Each contains about 100 calories and about 25 grams of carbohydrate. To aid uptake of the gel packs, as well as to promote hydration, each should be taken with six to eight ounces of water.
After the Race
Upon crossing the finish line, take in plenty of fluids in the form of plain water and sports drinks that contain electrolytes to replace the sodium and potassium lost during the race. If you can stomach some solids, try a bagel, banana or pretzels (commonly found at the post-race bash). Within a few hours, aim to incorporate some protein, either through dairy, meat, soy, eggs, legumes or nuts. After all, with a solid recovery effort, it is never too early to begin preparing your muscles for your next race.
Rebecca Marks Rudy is a sports nutrition associate with Trismarter.com , an online sports nutrition and triathlon coaching company.
This article was originally published at Metro Sports New York Online.