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24 hours and counting - what to eat before the big race day
by Brian Shea
Those final 24 hours
before the big race are always filled with nervous anticipation,
especially if it’s your first time toeing the line in a triathlon. Over
time, that feeling slowly diminishes, but unfortunately never goes
completely away even after years of racing. All the ‘what ifs’ fill your
head. What if I get kicked during the swim, flat on the bike or cramp on
the run? What if I forget my helmet? These things are all par for the
course and are part of the excitement of choosing to participate in a
multi-sport event versus hiding under the covers on a Saturday morning.
With all these
thoughts flooding your head, there’s another critical component to your
final countdown to the gun – what do I eat? This is a very easy question
to answer, but you won’t find it this article as I don’t know. I do know
who has the answer – you!
Not one menu is a
perfect fit for all athletes, but there are some general rules that
everyone can use as a guide during the final 24 hours leading into your
Hydration is Job
#1: Possibly the single biggest issue which could negatively impact
your race is dehydration. Losing as little as 1 percent of your body
weight in fluid can decrease performance by up to 10 percent. A priority
should be to start the race with your fluid reserves at full capacity and
lucky for you this is very easy to accomplish.
Eating “Clean” is
Job #2: The last thing you want to do is have your toes at the water’s
edge ready to kick off your race nature calls and you leave scrambling for
the closest Port-o-John!
Find your meal. There’s no
“one-size-fits-all,” diet that works for every athlete, but one thing
that does hold true is you want to stick with a diet that your body can
easily digest. As a general rule, in the last 24 hours before your race,
you want to avoid those foods that are slow to empty from your stomach.
Some foods that fall into this category include those that are high in
fat, high in fiber or other high processed meals. Basically the more
simple a meal, the better. Here’s one of my
favorite pre-race dinners.
Morning Eating Job
#3: The debate here is liquid versus solid. Do you drink your
breakfast risking hunger or eat a hearty one and risk heartburn?
Solid Meals Before Race: If
you’ve determined through training that your system prefers and can
tolerate solid foods before your event, be sure this meal is finished at
least two hours before your start time. Using our 7 a.m. start time,
this would mean your last bite should finish by 5 a.m. In those final
two hours before your event, it’s important that you keep your hydration
capped. Keep drinking watered down sports drinks right up until the gun
There are many more
elements to perfecting your individual pre and race day plan, but
hopefully this will help get you going in the right direction. After all
is said and done and your race day is over, make sure you keep a record of
what you ate so you can refer to this in the future. If you had any
digestive issues you will want to make note of this and conversely, if
everything went as planned, you want to make sure you can repeat that same
recipe for your next event.
If you have any other
specific questions, please don’t hesitate to
contact me. Good luck with your season, hope to see you at the races!!
Brian Shea is the owner of Personal Best
Nutrition - PBN:www.persoanlbestnutrition.com
Mr. Shea is a personal trainer certified by the American Council on
Exercise and a triathlon coach certified through U.S.A. Triathlon. He has
worked with athletes of all abilities from the United States and abroad,
formulating training and sports nutrition programs for optimum
performance. Mr. Shea is also an accomplished endurance athlete having
competed in over 100 triathlons and marathons throughout the world,
including the Ironman. Most recently, he was honored for his achievements
with an All American ranking by U.S.A Triathlon.