Tuesday, July 15, 2014

TriTalk Tuesday - Race Day Fueling

Happy Tuesday to everyone!  Cynthia at You Signed Up for What?, Courtney at The Trigirl Chronicles and I are continuing last week's theme of delicious #trichat with this week's theme - what to eat during (and before and after) a big race. 

Advanced planners - next week's topic will be paying homage to our support crew for their long hard work putting up with us and all our laundry.  Supporting a Triathlete!

Race day fueling is very personal.  There are hundreds of specialty products out there - GUs, Gatorade, Hammergels, Shokbloks... the list goes on.  I'm sure that you could ask a hundred different athletes their nutritional strategies and get 100 different answers.  There are some common themes though:

  • Don't try anything new on race day (this includes nutrition)
  • Take in calories every 45 minutes to an hour, if doing anything longer than a sprint
  • Hydrate hydrate hydrate.  Best place to do this in a triathlon is on the bike leg, so practice getting your waterbottle in and out easily!
  • Eat a good sized breakfast of carbs a couple of hours before the start - don't race on a full stomach.

The details are mostly personal preference.  I will share what I have found works best for me.  My racing nutrition has been a results of huge trial and error (including some epic bonks during longer races)

Leading up to the race:  I don't carbo-load, in particular.  I have tried it in the past, even eliminating whole grains and vegetables to reduce fiber (as my tummy can be problematic on the run.  Pun intended).  That strategy left me with too few calories in over the course of the taper, and my blood sugar unstable.  Now I eat my regular diet of whole grains, fruits and veggies, and proteins leading up to a race, focusing on keep my blood sugar levels from oscillating too much.  I do, however, have my traditional pre-race dinner of tuna casserole the night before (or 2 nights before) the race.

Why tuna casserole?  Two reasons - it was a childhood staple and comfort food that even my older brother could make for dinners, so it's a bit nostalgic and helps my race jitters.  Also, champion triathlete Chrissy Wellington says in her memoir "A Life Without Limits" that her go-to race meal is also... tuna pasta.  I'm guessing she doesn't mean the cream-of-mushroom soup kind with the breadcrumbs on top, per se, but if it's good enough for Chrissy it's good enough for me!  (Chrissy's book is a great summer read, by the way.  Very well written and inspiring.)

On race day itself, my standard breakfast is a banana and English muffin with natural peanut bitter.  Sometimes adding Greek yogurt as well.  My goal with breakfast is to get a good amount of slow-burning protein into my system a couple of hours beforehand, so it has some time to digest.  I know that many athletes race on only carbs because they are easier to digest - for all the reasons I talked about last week, this doesn't work for me.

About 30 minutes before the start of the race, I'll have one last carb/protein balanced snack, like a Pocketfuel pouch or granola bar.  On the bike I'll take in a GU every 45 minutes or so.  I'm not a huge fan of GU, but they are one of the easiest things to consume while in motion, and I've had ok success with them.  As I said above, hydrate like mad on the bike, especially if it's hot.  Then on the run (or on stand-alone running races), this is my go-to fuel: 

I kid you not.  I've tried a lot of different things, and peanut M&Ms work great for me.  It's (again) the combination of sugar and protein.  Plus, they are dirt cheap, which in this heavy expensive triathlete world, is a great thing!  I eat a fun-sized package (8 M&Ms) every four miles, religiously.  When I ran my most recent half-marathon in Raleigh, I even squeezed in some extra at mile 11 - nothing wrong with starting to space your snacks closer the longer you've been at it!
The only tough part is keeping the kids out of my M&M stash....

Of course, the one item I really can't live without is Nuun.  Electrolyte tabs in lots of yummy flavors, but with no calories.  I drink at least one bottle of Nuun for each workout, and on hot days or long workouts I'll both start and end a workout or race with it.  After our most recent Oly, Gypsy and I were driving back from the race with killer headaches that we couldn't figure out, since we were both drinking (plain) water like fishes.  Once we realized we were low on salt and chugged 2 tablets worth of Nuun each, we were all better!

What is your favorite race fuel??  Are you a GU junky or a whole foods aficionado?

In other news, it's been a while since I've done any kind of product review.  What would people like to see me review here?  Fellow bloggers - any suggestions on new stuff that needs attention?  Let me know in comments!


Courtney @The TriGirl Chronicles said...

Nuun is also excellent for hangovers, in case you were wondering =P

Tuna casserole sounds awesome! I grew up eating Kraft mac and cheese with tuna in it. I always eat pasta the few nights leading up to a race, so I might have to throw tuna mac and cheese into my rotation. Yum!

Anonymous said...

I read (and loved) A Life Without Limits, but I don't remember the tuna pasta bit! I am definitely going to steal that idea :)

Amanda said...

Excellent advice! I have that book but haven't had a chance to start it. Now I'm excited. Love that she eats tuna pasta. I'm a tuna pasta fan as well. Also agree with Nuun! It's the best! Thanks for the link-up.

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