Nutrition prior to racing (sprint & standard distance)

Sprint distance:

Before: Unless the weather is exceptionally hot then there is little need an athlete to take on board additional fuel either solid or liquid. A triathlete with a good balanced diet will adequately be able to complete a sprint distance race. If the weather is very hot then it would be advisable to sip extra water possibly with additional sodium in to counteract the amount of sweating that may occur. It is also very important to stay out of the sun until the time of the race.

During: Mainly water and to keep on topping up whenever the athletes feels the need to drink. The athlete may like to add juice to the water to make it more inviting.

After: The window of opportunity is within the hour in particular with regards to eating and to include some protein and carbohydrate in the food, eg tuna and pasta. To re hydrate then it is recommended that if an athlete looses 1kg then 1 ½ litres of fluid is required. Leading sport nutrition companies may suggest differently, but there is no evidence from the big companies that the ratio of recovery in their foods is 4:1, 2:1 and so on. Whatever they claim is pure selling on their part.

Standard distance:

Before: Again ideally the athlete will have a good balanced diet and some understanding about what food suits them and that element is very important. The athlete hopefully have prepared in training as to what does and does not suit them prior to a race. 4/5 days out from the race plenty of fruit and a good balance diet. 1/2 days leading up to the race then the muscles need to be fuelled and here carbs but with less fibre would be a good idea to aid digestion and the storage of glycogen. For me over the years I have found that eating a good carbohydrate meal two days prior a race suits and the day before a race to eat a normal size meal.

The day of the race, eat at a time that suits the individual and that will usually be 1-3 hours prior the race. Examples: 1 1/2 bagels (white)/ 2 bananas/2 muffins/ 6 weetabix ( quote K. Cunnell EIS Loughborough Uni). Recent research has also found that having a coffee before the race increases power output by releasing calcium that is stored in the muscle and the effect can enable the athlete to keep going longer. Caffeine also affects the brain’s sensation of the degree of exhaustion and can help the athlete continue. (Dr Tarnopolsky- McMaster University in Canada). As with all additional supplements this needs to be tried and tested in training and not be introduced for the first time on race day.

During: Again if the weather is hot the additional fluid needs to be accounted for and what is important for the athlete to do is to look at the weather forecast in the days leading up to the race.

After: The window of opportunity again is within the hour in particular with regards to eating and to include some protein and carbohydrate in the food, eg tuna and pasta. As with a sprint triathlon, rehydration is highly important and the same principal. Again do not get drawn in by the big sports companies.