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A foolproof nutritional timeline for a successful away race.
Part of the fun of triathlon is signing up for destination races, where you get to swim, bike and run through cool places. However, I have heard too many horror stories of nutrition fails due to unforeseen problems encountered when traveling for a race. Here is my nutritional timeline—from months out to minutes out from race time—to ensure smooth fueling on the road.
3-6 months before
Check the race website to learn what nutrition will be offered on course. When it’s products you’re familiar with and have tried before, you can continue to use them in training. If you’re not familiar, research the products, buy some and try it in training to find out how your body responds. Look at ingredient lists for anything out of the ordinary and be prepared to carry your own hydration if the on-course options won’t work for you.
2-3 weeks before
Read the online athlete guide for the most up-to-date list of products and note where they will be on course.
Check whether your hotel has a fridge in your room for snacks and pre-race necessities.
Buy more of each sports nutrition product than you think you will need. Make sure to set aside a full container of your sports drink powder, your electrolyte tabs of choice and a few extra of your favorite flavor gel.
Buy any non-perishable snacks you will want for the days leading up to the race, such as nuts, pretzels, dried fruits, energy bars, peanut butter and jelly, oatmeal, etc.
Ensure you have enough water bottles for pre-, during and post-race drink needs.
Upon arrival at your race destination
Unpack your gear and nutrition products to ensure everything you packed made it with you.
Go to the grocery store for any last-minute items you’ll need, such as milk for morning coffee, yogurt or bananas.
Consider race morning timing. Will the hotel restaurant or room service be open when you need to leave for your race? Where will you get your essential morning cup of joe?
When eating out, keep in mind that even familiar foods may be prepared differently elsewhere, so ask questions about prep, ingredients, spices, etc. A “boring” pre-race dinner is better than race-day GI upset, so the simpler the better. (Save the adventure eats for post-race!)
No surprises here, just stick to your plan and visualize race fueling success. Eat and drink as planned, and don’t let race-day jitters and stress cause you to miss planned food and drink.
During the race
Again, stick to your plan with only what I call “intelligent” straying. If it’s hotter than expected, increase fluid and salt intake; if your stomach is unsettled, pull back slightly on your intake for a few minutes and gauge your next best move—but only change your race nutrition and hydration plan with purposeful intent.
Within the first 15–30 minutes after crossing the finish line, consume plenty of fluids (salty fluids or recovery drinks are often best), and your planned post-race recovery nutrition. Doing so will ensure you feel your best throughout the rest of the day (and in the days to come). Aim for half your body weight in grams of carbohydrate, and 20 grams of protein.
Thereafter, enjoy a great meal and maybe even a celebratory beer if you’re so inclined.
Feel proud that your race-day nutrition and hydration plan went off without a hitch and allowed you to perform your best!
Lauren Antonucci is a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, three-time Ironman finisher and the founding director of Nutrition Energy in New York City.G