Fuel Like A Pro

You may be surprised to learn the varied tactics, tastes and tolerances of some of our sport’s superstars.

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Often it’s not the grueling distances of long-course triathlon that leave athletes flailing; it’s the lack of proper fueling along the way. But one person’s perfect nutrition plan might be another’s gastrointestinal nightmare. We polled a number of pros to learn their before-, during- and after-race eating and drinking habits. You may be surprised to learn the varied tactics, tastes and tolerances of some of our sport’s superstars.

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The Day Before

“I’ve heard stories of folks going out for KFC or other greasy meals the day before a race, but to me this can only be a recipe for disaster—an ‘Original Recipe’ for disaster, that is! That said, I have been known to scarf down a hefty portion of pizza two nights before the race, especially if I’m closing out a large block of training and my body might be deficient in calories. The day before, I tend to eat exactly what I eat on a day-to-day basis. My main goal is to eat an early dinner, which tends to consist of basic rice pasta with marinara sauce. I get around 1000 calories at 5 p.m., then later I’ll eat a snack of cookies or M&M’s so I don’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night.” Michael Lovato

“I eat eggs with veggies for breakfast, fruit for a snack, a sandwich and salad for lunch and egg veggie surprise again for dinner. I guess I like eggs.” Mary Beth Ellis

“For dinner I usually make a buffet of chicken, broccoli, salad, rice, bread and pizza because I never know what I will feel like eating depending on my nerves.” Chris Lieto

“I eat my usual breakfast, a bagel with half peanut butter and half cream cheese, a sandwich of sorts for lunch, and something like white rice, sweet potato and a bit of protein for dinner. It’s usually two days before the race that I really chow down. I used to go by the mantra ‘A hungry fox hunts best,’ but I’m not sure that works for an Ironman—it’s too bloody long.” Julie Dibens

“I like a big breakfast: three to four eggs, avocado, salsa, toast, coffee, potatoes and sometimes a nice pastry. Lots of snacking throughout the day: yogurt, granola, peanut butter and jelly, trail mix, peanut butter-filled pretzels. I like a big lunch as well: a turkey sandwich on wheat with Swiss, avocado and lots of veggies, a piece of fruit, chips and a chocolate chip cookie. I like a smaller dinner: grilled chicken breast, sweet potato with cottage cheese, grilled veggies, quinoa and some nice dark chocolate for dessert.” Linsey Corbin

“I limit fiber 48 hours before a race. This helps keep the weight down and limits the toilet stops on the run. I eat a lot of rice-based foods and potatoes. I’ve been known to eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s the night before, too!” Joe Gambles

“Breakfast and lunch can vary, but dinner is always the same: yams, potatoes, carrots and rutabaga all mashed together, steamed spinach and fish (mahi mahi or trout) with added salt. I drink First Endurance Ultragen, EFS electrolyte drink and lots of water to stay hydrated.” Heather Wurtele

“I start off with a bigger than normal breakfast (Denny’s!) and taper throughout the day. At my last race I had a First Endurance Cappuccino Ultragen shake mixed with almonds and two bananas for dinner.” Amanda Lovato

“I eat a normal breakfast of toast and eggs, a sandwich and salad for lunch, Muscle Milk, and ham and pineapple pizza for dinner with water and Greek salad. I usually have a cookie or ice cream sandwich for dessert.” Matty Reed

“I like this day. I have a good-sized breakfast: double toast with tahini and banana, coffee and then a mid-morning scone or muffin. Lunch is pasta with ketchup—it sounds disgusting but it is so good! Dinner is pizza—it has fat for fuel and carbs for my muscles.” Joanna Lawn

Fuel For The Main Event

“Powering up is all about waking up and energizing my body. That starts with a bloody strong coffee and then some oatmeal with peanut butter on the side—I eat it out of the jar!” Leanda Cave

“I eat a bagel or oatmeal and coffee for breakfast. During the race, I use Body Science Fuel 02 Sports Drink and the Coke and electrolyte drink on the course. I take all my calories as liquids. For recovery I drink vanilla- and coffee-flavored Athletes HoneyMilk.” Craig Alexander

“I try to give myself 12 hours between dinner and race-morning breakfast. That way, I’m sure I’ll digest dinner in a timely manner. Being confident that I will take a No. 2 is imperative on race morning! For breakfast I eat semi-solid foods, such as hot rice cereal with agave syrup, bananas and almond butter. Five to 10 minutes prior to the race start, I take in a non-caffeinated gel. I already feel amped with nerves—I don’t need any caffeine at this point!” Amanda Lovato

“I have two options for my early morning meal, based on the cooking facilities. Option No. 1 is a bagel with avocado and two scrambled eggs. Option No. 2 is porridge (i.e. rolled oats) if I don’t have a kitchen. I’ve learned how to cook this in a hotel room coffee machine! Both meals are complemented with a strong espresso. I’m a Gatorade guy—I take a G Series Prime about 30 minutes out from the race start and I sip on G2 Perform throughout the morning. The foundation of my race nutrition is Gatorade Endurance formula and Gatorlytes added to both the Gatorade and water, to meet my higher sodium demands. For recovery, it depends on how happy my stomach is—I switch between the G Series Fit Recovery smoothie and the G Series Recover 03.” Chris Legh

“After a good breakfast, I have a bottle with PowerBar Endurance, Base Performance Amino Acid and Base Performance Electrolyte Salt. The last hour before the start, I sip on a second bottle. I take two PowerBar gels one hour before the start and 20–30 minutes before the start. During an Ironman I drink a bottle an hour with PowerBar Endurance, Base Performance Amino and Base Salt. I supplement with water and I take in 2.5–3 PowerBar gels per hour. On the run this is lessened to the fluid I can take in at aid stations and a gel every 20 minutes, with a FuelBelt flask concentration of PowerBar Endurance and Base Salt to sip before each aid station. Post-race, I take Base Performance Recovery Activator to help absorb carbohydrates, then drink a bottle of PowerBar Recovery formula with a full serving of Base Amino. Then I eat as much as I can and whatever sounds good—usually pizza and oranges.” Chris Lieto

“I use Cytomax electrolyte drink before and during the race. On the bike I eat loads of bananas, and sometimes if things aren’t going well I throw in a Snickers bar to give me a pickup. On the run I use Coke, Red Bull shots and pretty much whatever else I can get my hands on at the aid stations.” Joanna Lawn

“The morning of the race I drink chocolate milk and eat Pop-Tarts. During a 70.3 I use Gu gels, Gatorade, Carbo-Pro and a No-Doz. After the race I drink Gu Recovery Brew.” Paul Matthews

“Breakfast is rice cereal with honey and nut butter and coffee. Aside from water, I don’t have anything else until I’m on the bike, when I have two bottles of Cytomax, two gels and a small chocolate bar. On the run I have one gel every 25 minutes with water.” Chrissie Wellington

“Before, I eat a bagel, a banana, peanut butter and honey. I have a Chocolate Outrage Gu gel with 50mg No-Doz 45 minutes before the race start. During, I use Gu Energy Gels and Gu Electrolyte Brew. After, I drink an Ascend protein recovery shake and whatever else I feel like.” Joe Gambles

“Pre-race, I have a sweet potato with cottage cheese, a small cup of oatmeal and Clif Shot electrolyte drink; then an espresso-flavored Clif Shot gel with water 30 minutes before the start. During the race, I drink Clif Shot electrolyte drink, assorted Clif Shot gels, salt tabs, water and the electrolyte drink served on-course.” Linsey Corbin

“I might have a smoothie consisting of vanilla almond milk, Justin’s Almond Butter, a banana, two scoops of Ultragen and mixed berries. I sip a cup of black coffee and take Endurance MultiV and Optygen HP. During my warm-up I sip 18–24 ounces of EFS and I take 100 calories of Liquid Shot prior to jumping in the water. For a 70.3 I have one flask of EFS Liquid Shot and two bottles of EFS drink. I supplement with water, the amount determined by the heat. I aim for 40 ounces an hour in hot/humid races. Since adopting a fueling program based 100 percent on the First Endurance line, I’ve abandoned the use of supplemental salt tabs. Recovery generally starts with a few cups of plain water. I like to quench my thirst, wash the fur off my teeth and ease into my recovery plan.” Michael Lovato

Video: What The Pros Eat Pre-Race

The Post-Race Rewards

“Recovery includes a few glasses of good vino and a massive dirty burger.” Mirinda Carfrae

“Beer, pizza and chocolate—not just post-race, but anytime!” Craig Alexander

“Chocolate milk! Then after my stomach settles I can eat pretty much anything, and it all sounds good: sweet potato fries, frozen yogurt, a latte to keep me up to watch the final midnight finishers. Sometimes a beer goes down well, too.” Linsey Corbin

“Timberman 70.3 has one of the best post-race buffets ever—I may have had three ice cream cones there last year. I also love a good margarita post-race.” Amanda Lovato

“Frozen grapes, yogurt and almond butter.” Angela Naeth

“Why do you think I race Ironman? My favorite treats are pizza, French fries or nachos—anything salty and fatty. I like to finish off the night with an extra large serving of frozen yogurt or ice cream. I go wild at the breakfast buffet the day after the race—you would swear I had never seen food before.” Belinda Granger

“I love chocolate marshmallows.” Mathias Hecht

“I usually can’t stomach too much the evening after an Ironman and wake up starving. A 3 a.m. trip to a 24-hour breakfast place like Denny’s has been known to happen.” Heather Wurtele

“I crave milkshakes and donuts post-race. I actually always crave milkshakes and donuts, but post-race I have no problem buying them!” Timothy O’Donnell

“After Ironman Arizona, my world-record indulgence was two large burgers, two plates of chips, one plate of onion rings and 15 donuts.” Chrissie Wellington

“All the benefits of my race-day nutrition are often offset by a beer—or three.” Chris Legh

Storage Techniques

“I carry a little chocolate bar in the back pocket of my top. Sometimes it melts and looks as if I’ve had a huge accident.” Chrissie Wellington

“I use lots of electrical tape and sandwich bags rather than a bento box.” Mary Beth Ellis

“I dissolve Base Electrolyte Salt into a lipstick-size spray bottle that I use on the run.” Chris Lieto

“I carry Liquid Shot flasks in my tri jersey pockets. I’m stoked about a new UltrAspire run belt to be revealed soon!” Heather Wurtele

“I put all my nutrition in my bottles. I hate opening gels.” Mathias Hecht

“I’ve been known to carry bananas in my tri top during the bike. I’ve never lost a banana!” Amanda Lovato

“On the run I use the Revenge 2-Bottle Fuel Belt and a 10-ounce Sprint Palm Holder for half-Ironman events and longer; in shorter races I stick with just the Sprint.” Chris Legh

“I am like a camel—I store it in my humps. And in my Profile Design drink bottles.” Terenzo Bozzone

“I use a Profile Design storage box on my top tube to keep my nutrition safe and within reach. It’s like a little convenience store on my bike!” Timothy O’Donnell

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