Our bodies can hold around 2000 kcal of energy stored in the muscles and liver for use during higher intensities. How quickly we get through that energy store during a race is down to several factors such as body weight, the intensity of exercise, efficiency and environmental factors such as weather and course profile. Most people can probably complete 90 – 120 minutes of exercise without the need to take on fuel on the go.
During a Standard distance race, while it’s possible to complete the distance with minimal race fuelling, it’s likely your performance will suffer on the later stages of the bike and run. Therefore, it’s advised you use training sessions to help plan your required intake for your race day nutrition strategy. While race nutrition is important, don’t forget about the importance of consistency with your preparation the week before a race to ensure you’re suitably fuelled and hydrated.
WEEK OF THE RACE
- Consistent food & water intake, balanced protein, fat & carbohydrate levels.
- Increase energy intake slightly to maximise muscle stores.
- Avoid too much fibre the day before, avoid alcohol to improve sleep quality & hydration levels.
MORNING BEFORE THE RACE
- Consume a simple breakfast that you know you can digest well and have used well in training around 3 hours before your race start
BEFORE THE RACE START
- Stay hydrated, particularly if it’s a warm day, but don’t drink too much or you’ll be taking an unscheduled mid-race pit stop. You could have a small snack about 45 min before the start such
as a banana, half an energy bar or an energy gel.
DURING THE RACE
- Swim – No nutritional intake during the swim.
- Bike – At least one 750 ml bottle of electrolyte/energy drink on the bike, with an additional bottle depending on your personal requirement and weather conditions. Consider taking an energy gel in the latter half of the bike. (There are no aid stations on the bike course)
- Run – You should probably take on at least some water on the run depending on your own sweat rate, course difficulty and weather conditions. You may also want to have an additional gel half way through the run to keep energy levels topped up. During the run, gels are often the most convenient way of taking on fuel. It’s advised you drink when taking a gel, so plan your strategy around the existing aid stations.
AFTER THE RACE – RECOVERY
- Consume water/electrolytes as required and aim to have a small meal within a couple of hours. If consuming energy products for the race, be sure to have tested these in training prior to race day to know how they affect your body!
Electrolyte drinks – these are low in calories and don’t provide an energy source. They contain minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium & sodium that you expel when you sweat and are a good way to help you maintain hydration. If you are someone that suffers from cramping muscles when training, you may find an electrolyte drink might help prevent this.
Sports energy drinks – A sports specific energy drink contains electrolytes and carbohydrates (in the form of different types of sugars) they help absorption and hydration as well as providing energy. Remember your body takes time to absorb this energy so there is no point taking it at the end of your race.
Energy gels – Like a sports energy drink these contain carbohydrate and electrolytes, however, the concentrated gel form means you can consume the energy quicker in a smaller volume, compared to the amount of fluid you would need to consume in energy drink form to get the same amount. Energy gels can take some getting use too the taste due to their concentrated nature – experiment with flavours and brands to find one you can stomach.