The question of what to eat the day before, and the morning of, a triathlon are repeatedly asked. While it is true that there is not one single menu that suits all triathletes, there are some general rules that beginners, novices and experienced triathletes should stick to.
This article is a simple guide and individual triathletes should adapt it to suit their own needs.
The single most important point in Triathlon Nutrition is not to try any thing new the day before, or the day of, the race. Don’t try a new breakfast bar or fuel drink the morning of a race – try it in the weeks before prior to a training session.
The same principle that applies to your triathlon equipment and what to wear for a triathlon applies to your eating habits – race like you train.
Getting your race nutrition right is one of the most important tricks for a successful triathlon. I’ll tell you all my race-day secrets to help you avoid stomach cramps and trips to the porta-potty. Just add your email below and I’ll send you them for free.
What to Eat the Night Before a Triathlon
Hydration is Key. Dehydration is the most important issue that could negatively affect a triathletes. Studies have shown that losing as little as 1 percent of your body weight in fluid can decrease performance by up to 10 percent.
Try to begin the race with fluid reserves at full capacity and to do this, drink fluid replacement drinks such as Cytomax or Accelerade to help maintain proper electrolyte balance.
Make sure you have a bottle of water or fluid replacement drink with you at all times during the 24 hours prior to a race. Sip little and often and you will ensure you are adequately hydrated.
Be careful not to force feed yourself fluid. Only drink enough so that your urine is very light to clear in color. Drinking any more than this can affect your electrolyte balance and negatively impact your sleep pattern.
Be Kind to Your Stomach. Test out different food combinations and stick with a diet that your body can easily digest. As a general rule, you should avoid foods that are slow to empty from your stomach. In particular, those foods that are high in fat, high in fiber or other high processed meals. Plain foods are best.
In terms of timing, the last large meal you eat should be finished AT LEAST 12 hours before race start time. Again, this is simply a rough approximation – you should experiment yourself and see how your body reacts to slightly earlier or later meal times.
Either way, you need to ensure that all food is fully digested before the race starts.
What to Eat the Morning of a Triathlon
Some triathletes prefer to have a liquid breakfast while others react better to a more traditional, solid food based meal. Whichever option you choose, it pays to eat as soon as possible before the race to give your body the chance to process the food.
Avoiding last minute trips to the Port-a-John is something we should all strive for.
Some athletes prefer a liquid diet on race morning as the calories are more easily digested and you are also aiding in hydration. Timing is less critical with a liquid meal as it will empty from your stomach quicker than a solid meal.
If, through experimenting during your training, 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. In those final two hours before your event, you should keep your hydration topped up.
Keep drinking watered down sports drinks right up until the gun goes off.
After the Race
Try to keep a record of what you ate up until the race to use as a reference in the future. Just as with your triathlon training plan itself, your nutrition system should always be a work in progress and improve as each race is completed.