Avoid a DNF (Did Not Finish) by nailing your race nutrition

Racing long distance, whether it be a triathlon, an ultra-run, or a long-distance bike race, all have one thing in common…

Making sure your nutrition is spot on can be the difference between finishing or not finishing your race. Our bodies have around 90 minutes of carbohydrates stored up in our muscles, so you want to make sure if you are racing for more than an hour that you have plenty of high carbohydrate snacks to refuel your muscles. Bananas, date balls, and other fruity snacks are great, but this can be really hard to consume if you are running, so gels or liquid carbohydrates can be a good option during a run. 

I am thrilled that Laura Brown a physiotherapist and a professional triathlete said she would be happy to share her pre-race, racing and post-race nutrition tips with us. I think most of us know that you can be as ready mentally and physically as you can be for a race, but if you get your nutrition wrong on race day there is no coming back from that, however strong you are!

Q.RPX: What sort of meals do you recommend eating during the months leading up to an event to maintain a healthy training state?

A. Laura: I try to maintain a balance with my meals, whilst also ensuring that I get enough variety. My focus these days is Ironman distance so I need to make sure I am consuming enough fuel to offset the high training volume that I am doing. In particular, this is important on weekends where I can be training up to 6 – 8 hours on one day.

Q.RPX: What’s your fuel of choice during your swim, bike, and run training sessions to sustain performance?

A: Laura: During shorter sessions, I don’t usually eat but keep my fluids up using electrolytes. For longer sessions, such as rides, I find the key is to keep snacking, to avoid hitting the wall. I tend to take with me bananas, bars (eg. clif bars) and energy chews (eg. clif bloks). Always better to take too much on those long rides and not eat it all, than not enough. I pack extra electrolyte tablets for these rides too, so that I can add them to my drink bottles when re-filling.

Q.RPX: What’s on the menu after a training session to re fuel?

A. Laura: After a big session, one of my favourite breakfasts is eggs, avocado, mushrooms and a bit of toast. Plus coffee!!

Q.RPX: What foods do you eat before a race to assist race performance?

A. Laura: I usually keep my meals fairly similar to my usual meal plan in the week leading up to a race. I avoid too much carb loading.

Q.RPX: Is there anything you avoid before a race?

A. Laura: Anything that I’m not use to or that may upset my stomach.

Q.RPX: What type of nutrition do you use when you are racing?

A. Laura: When racing, I tend to stick to gels and electrolytes. I use time-points in the race to guide my gel consumption/frequency and towards the back-end of the race, the gels are caffeine-based. For the Ironman distance, I carry salt with me when running. I also drink the coke that is provided at the aid stations on the run leg for caffeine (the only time I drink coke).

Q. What three tips can you give for nutrition do’s and don’ts in a race?

A. Laura: I am still learning and working on my nutrition plan as I have only recently transitioned to Ironman distance. One big thing I learnt in my first Ironman is that it’s important not to overhydrate in a race. During Ironman Western Australia, I consumed so much fluid that I suffered from hyponatremia! My second tip would be never try anything new with your nutrition plan on race day. Finally, stick to your nutrition plan and don’t be distracted by what others are doing. Everyone is different and a nutrition plan for one person is not necessarily the best plan for someone else. I recommend working with a Dietitian if you really want to nail your race and training nutrition and to make sure that it is tailored to you.

Q. What is your favourite post-race food to eat?

A. Laura: Whatever is in the recovery tent at the finish line!!