Nutritionally Fit: Fueling Your Triathlon Race-Day

Everyone needs to eat a healthy, balanced diet, but highly active athletes need to take even more care in feeding into their body. If you are training for TriDu (or are just generally very active), you need to ensure that your body is getting not only enough vitamins and minerals, but especially enough energy and protein. Here are some tips to get you on the right track for healthy eating, and to help you plan your race day food intake.

gels

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General Healthy Eating:
Eat your fruits and veggies! Go for the actual fruit or vegetable – do not settle for juice, because juice does not contain much fibre. The darker the better – the darker the fruit or vegetable (think of spinach and yams), the more vitamins you will get from it.
Grain Products will be your best source of energy when you are working out. Did you know whole grain and whole wheat are not the same thing? Whole grain has more fibre so always choose this option if you can.
Protein: You need sufficient protein to help repair muscles, which are broken down during exercise. Your body is most receptive for protein absorption 15-30 minutes after you work out – so always have a post-work-out snack with you.
o   A banana with peanut butter is a great source of protein (from the peanut butter)
o   You can have a protein shake, but you do not have to spend  money on protein powder – you can make your own shake with peanut butter or powdered milk.
Fueling for Race-Day
48hrs Pre-Race
Carb loading can help prevent muscle fatigue on race day, but don’t overdo it! Eat more carbs than usual, but do not eat so much that you will feel bloated later. It is also important to avoid fat and fibre. Fibre is an important component of your diet, but DO NOT have too much prior to race day. You do not want to feel bloated (a nice way of saying you do not want to get gassy or have diarrhea) on race day. Fat fills you up, preventing you from getting sufficient carbohydrates into your diet.
Race Day!
Morning Snack: Be sure to keep the snack small, only about 250 calories total. This could be a banana, a low fat muffin or toast. Add some protein (peanut butter again!) to your breakfast to fill you up.
Fluids: At least 500ml, 2-3 hours before race time.
Race-Food: You only need to eat food during the race if it is longer than 90 minutes. This means that you should only need race-food if you are doing the olympic triathlon, however, go with what makes you comfortable! Eat 30-60g of carbs for every additional hour of activity after the initial 90 minutes. This is about one bite of a banana.
Gels can be consumed during the race, and are an easy source of carbs to eat on the go. Go for high carbs and low protein gels (you do not need protein during the race.) Do not try out new gel flavours on the day of – some may not be to your liking, and might make you feel nauseous. Go with a fruity flavour if it is cold outside – the chocolate and vanilla flavours get thick and sticky when it is cold, which makes it harder to swallow during the race.
Familiarity is key: Do not try anything new on race day! Some food might not sit well with you and you do not want this added stress to your race. Make sure that you try different foods in your training sessions to see what your body can deal with. This is especially important for the swimming part of the race, as the turning may upset your stomach.
Post-Race
The critical time window to the nutrients, carbs and protein you need to help recover is within 30 minutes after the race. Insufficient food intake in this critical time can lead to your body needing a much longer time to repair itself. Chocolate milk is one of the best post-work out drink as it has 3:1 Carbs:Protein – the golden ratio!
We would like to thank Theresa Price and Patrick Waters for providing us with all the information used in this article.
Looking to become more educated? Follow these links for further reading on nutrition, sport related and otherwise.
Whole Grain vs Whole Wheat
Carbohydrate Loading
Sports Drinks, Bars and Gels
Recovery Nutrition
Reducing Risk of Osteoporosis
Calcium Calculator
Dietitians of Canada Website (for general nutrition information)
Coaches Association of Canada Website (for sport nutrition information)

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