Fuelling and nourishing your body is just as important as putting in all those hours of training. The right fuel—taken at the right time will make all the difference in optimising your performance and recovery. If you’re training for a triathlon this is the perfect time to test any changes to your meals. While your training sessions may be shorter than race day getting the basics right now will make all the difference on race day.
For any triathlete the goal before and during training is to maximise nutrients and glucose needed for your muscles to perform as well as delay the onset of fatigue and maintain optimal hydration. After training or competition your focus will be on replenishing glycogen stores and facilitating muscle growth and repair. The other consideration for most athletes is to avoid any digestive distress which can be common during endurance training.
The Night Before
While most athletes concentrate on race day, what you eat the night before is equally important.
The night before try and eat your evening meal relatively early – ideally allow at least 12 hours before race start – this will help to minimise digestive issues on race day. Make carbohydrates an important focus of your pre-race dinner – this could include rice with veggies and starchy vegetables like sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots or beets. Add in lean protein (chicken, fish, eggs, tofu) and include a little healthy fat such as olives, avocado, nuts and seeds. Make sure the day before you also keep yourself hydrated – your urine colour should ideally be a pale straw colour.
Probably one of the most important meals to get right is your pre-race breakfast. As most events start early you may need to get up earlier than normal. Eat your planned breakfast at least 2-3 hours before the race start. This will enable your body to digest your food, replenish glycogen stores and help avoid any digestive upsets or stomach cramps during the race.
The best options are easy-to-digest foods which help reduce GI distress, restock liver glycogen and limit muscle damage. Good choices are those low in fat with a combination of slow and quick releasing carbohydrates. As a rough guide aim to include around 50-100g carbohydrate and 13-25g protein (3/4:1 ratio). The exact amount will depend on the length of the race.
Popular choices include porridge oats with yogurt, raisins and a scoop of protein powder; Pitta bread or wholegrain bagel with cottage cheese and a banana. If you can’t face too much solid food try a fruit protein smoothie. Our Whey Protein + Collagen contains 23g protein and if you combine this with skimmed milk or coconut water and a large banana you will consume around 50g carbohydrate.
Hydration is equally important. Aim to drink 5-7ml of fluid per kilogram of body weight 2-3 hours before the race (i.e. 350 – 490ml or sports bottle). This should leave you well hydrated for the start of the race without endless trips to the toilets before the start. Use our electrolyte tabs to ensure optimal hydration. If you can tolerate coffee then a cup of coffee or an electrolyte tab with added caffeine may be a good option as a natural performance aid.
Just Before The Start
There is a lot of hanging around before the race begins and depending on the weather and timings it may be wise to top up glucose levels. While it’s best not to eat much during the final hour before the race you may wish to take a few sips of our Hydro drink or ½ energy gel with some water to keep you topped up.
During The Race
Make sure you practise your fuelling strategy during training to see what works for you. As a general rule your body can only utilise between 30- 60g of carbohydrate per hour. There are a number of options to consider our energy gels provide 22g of carbohydrate and 400mg of BCAA’s which support muscle mass and performance by reducing fatigue after exercise. Consuming 1-2 gels every hour with water is a convenient option. Our gels also contain dual fuel – Maltodextrin & natural fruit for sustained energy without GI upset.
Another option which also ensures sufficient fluids is our Hydro Energy Drink – one serving (500ml) provides 30g carbohydrates in the form of Dual fuel (Maltodextrin with Palatinose) to provides fast & steady releasing carbohydrates to maintain performance.
Many prefer to do most of their fuelling on the bike for ease and to minimise digestive upset.
Throughout the race aim to sip some fluid every 15-20 minutes (around 4 to 6 ounces or 100-200ml) aiming to drink about 500ml each hour. Drinking smaller amounts at regular intervals can help you absorb fluid more effectively without causing digestive upset. Avoid over hydration (hyponatremia) by drinking fluids with sodium added.
In the first hour after the race, your muscles are primed to receive fuel to start the repair process. Eat or drink a recovery snack ideally within the first half hour after the race. Your muscles need protein and carbohydrate to speed up recovery and restore glycogen stores so aim for around or 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein. This could be chocolate milk or our Whey + Collagen protein shake with an added banana. Alternatively if want food rather than a drink good choice includes Greek yogurt with cereal, cheese and crackers or peanut butter and rice cakes. Whatever you choose make sure it is easy to digest. For a convenient, portable option try a protein bar plus a piece of fruit. Carbohydrate consumption immediately after the race helps facilitate recovery by restoring muscle glycogen and minimizing inflammation while protein assists with the body’s ability to take in carbohydrate and restores muscle recovery and repair.
Pay attention to those lost electrolytes and fluids too – sodium, potassium and magnesium will be lost through sweat during the race. Use the electrolyte tabs for ease and aim to drink around 500ml within the first 30 minutes after the race.
Recovery doesn’t stop with your post-race snack: you’ll want to eat again within 1-2 hours and the meal should include high quality protein (chicken, eggs etc.) with some healthy fat (olives, avocado, nuts, seeds) in addition to carbohydrates. To support recovery include plenty of colourful antioxidant rich vegetables and berries too.