Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned athlete, eating properly before a sprint distance triathlon can help optimize performance. Eating a variety of healthy carbohydrates, sticking with familiar foods and focusing on hydration during the week before your race will ensure that you cross the finish line feeling like a champion.
4-7 Days Before Your Race
Carbohydrates are stored as energy in your muscles, so it’s important to eat foods with carbohydrates to fuel your performance. Most people will naturally get a variety of these foods in their diet, but if you have been following a low-carbohydrate diet, this may be the time to switch things up. However, this does not mean carbohydrate loading in a traditional sense. There’s no need for giant plates of pasta leading up to a sprint distance triathlon, which is relatively short in the world of endurance sports. Instead, eat several portion-controlled servings of healthy foods that contain carbohydrates each day. Choose from foods like fruits, starchy vegetables, whole grains, legumes and dairy products.
2-3 Days Before Your Race
During this time, focus on maintaining dietary variety and staying hydrated. Limiting yourself to only a few foods can put you at risk for gastrointestinal upset. For example, eating too much fruit for several days can cause diarrhea, while eating only refined carbohydrates contributes to constipation -- neither of which are problems you want to take to the starting line. Instead, keep a variety of familiar foods in your diet and get plenty of fluids. Dehydration of more than 2 percent of your body weight reduces performance. Aim for about 3 liters per day if you are male and 2 liters per day if you are female -- plus any extra needed during exercise. Staying hydrated in the days leading up to the event will put you at the starting line in optimal condition.
1 Day Before Your Race
The day before the race, your lunch and dinner meals should contain familiar, easily digestible foods -- mostly carbohydrate along with a serving of protein. Examples might include a beef and vegetable stir-fry over rice, poached eggs and spinach over quinoa, or pasta with grilled chicken and marinara sauce. Stick with your standard portion sizes, as larger portions can lead to bloating and discomfort. Limit or avoid cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts, as these may cause gas and gastrointestinal upset.
Race Day Breakfast
Race day morning is not the time to try anything new. At least an hour before the race, eat a breakfast that contains easily digestible sources of carbohydrate. Stick with food you ate during training that fueled you well and did not cause stomach upset. Some examples include a plain bagel with a little peanut butter; a smoothie made with juice, fruit and yogurt; or cereal with milk and a banana. Avoid meals that are high in fat or fiber since both slow digestion and can cause gastrointestinal upset on the course. For this reason, eating refined grains -- like a white bagel or white bread -- may be a better choice on race morning than their higher-fiber whole-grain counterparts.
- Journal of Sports Science: Nutrition for Endurance Sports: Marathon, Triathlon, and Road Cycling
- Comprehensive Physiology: Dehydration: Physiology, Assessment, and Performance Effects
- Current Sports Medicine Reports: Exercise and the Institute of Medicine Recommendations for Nutrition
- Columbia Health: Go Ask Alice -- Carbo Loading
- Sports Nutrition Guide Book; Nancy Clark
- Today's Dietitian: Marathon Fueling -- Runners Need Proper Nutrition and Hydration for the 26.2-Mile Stretch