Practice makes perfect. (Or as close to perfect as triathlon allows)

Time and time again we see athletes in a race getting their nutrition wrong (I have certainly fallen into that camp many times before) so what is the secret behind getting your nutrition plan for a race as close to ‘perfect’ as possible? 

Ideally, you should be asking yourself the question above at least 6-8 weeks out from your race and it’s even better if you are thinking about it (and more importantly actioning it) even earlier than that, particularly for half and full distance racing. This is because there is no ‘one way fits all’ when it comes to race nutrition as you need to take a whole range of factors into consideration; how long the race will take you, how strong your stomach is, what do you actually like eating/drinking when training, how much nutrition can you realistically carry on your bike or on the run, how will you carry it… the list goes on. It all sounds relatively daunting but the truth is that if you are thinking about all of these things way in advance it means that you can start testing your nutrition plan out in training way before race day is upon you so when race day comes around you can be confident and practised in what to do. 

Try using this 8 step plan to help you on your journey to find what works for you;

  1. Write down the time you are aiming for in your upcoming race
  2. Take this time and add at least 30 minutes to it (this gives you the opportunity to add in a buffer of nutrition just in case things don’t go as planned so you are never too low on nutrition)
  3. Ideally you want to be taking between 90-110g carbohydrate on per hour (some people can take on more than this others not as much) so take your total time racing and work out how much carbohydrate in total you need for the duration of the race*
  4. Think about the nutrition you might use in training, remember that you are looking for food/drinks which are easy to absorb and digest. This is where energy drinks, gels and chocolate bars can provide a really good solution 
  5. Consider how you will carry your nutrition. How many bottle cages do you have? Where else could you place nutrition on your bike? How will you carry nutrition on the run?
  6. Buy the products, food and drinks you intend to use in the race 
  7. Begin practising your nutrition plan in key training sessions as you lead up to the race such as brick sessions (bike-run sessions) or long rides to get your body used to the plan and check it works for you
  8. Test out the ways you will carry the nutrition to make you as comfortable as possible when racing… no one wants to be running with a whole box of gels strapped around their waist!

Some handy tips;

  • 250ml soft flasks for running can hold 4 gels and are easy to carry
  • With most energy drink powders you can create a much more concentrated bottle of nutrition so that you can carry less in the way of bottles of nutrition and can instead just pick up bottles of water at aid stations to chase your concentrated syrup down with
  • Check the race handbook to see what nutrition will be available on course 
  • Don’t panic if your nutrition looks nothing like someone else’s, we are all individual when it comes to nutrition 
  • Take a look at the weather conditions you should be expecting at the race. If it’s hot things can melt and you’ll need more in the way of electrolytes to replenish your system, if it’s cold then nutrition can become more gloopy and harder to swallow/bite down on. Don’t be caught out by having a chocolate bar nutrition plan that just becomes a chocolate fountain on race day - triathlon is wonderfully messy enough on its own 

*working with a nutritionist is always advisable

By Chantal Sainter (nee Cummings)

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