Nutrition tips for long course with Nick Croft
Keep this in mind – the 5 p’s – Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Don’t let the hard months of training fall to pieces race week or race day by neglecting to follow some of these guidelines and or others that you have found work for you.
If you are racing in the upcoming 70.3 or Ironman it would be expected that you have trailed and practised your planned race day nutrition over the past weeks and months to see what works for you and fine tune to make sure you can get the most out of yourself on race day. Many athletes can and do come unstuck on race day due to poor nutrition – some don’t have enough while others can overdo it and become ill due to trying to force too many calories down or use products that have not been tested well enough in training at race paces.
The general acceptance is that athletes can absorb between 60-90 grams of carbohydrate per hr. Everyone is different of course. Many sports nutritionists work off suggesting 1 gram of carbs per kg of body weight per hour of racing. I have found this to be about right for the bike but you can get away with less during the run. So for a 70kg athlete doing a 3hr half Ironman bike split this is 210 grams of carbs made up from various sources – including gels, energy bars, sports drinks etc. For the run that same athlete could get away with 40-50grams of carbs.
So generally I will assume you have your race nutrition plan sorted and is well trialled but generally some things to go over would be. Three days before the race your main priority is to get enough carbs and fluids in. For breakfast – cereals that are not too refined or contain too much sugar, fruit with plenty of fluids. Lunch and dinners – again high in carbs with some protein. Meals like pasta rice and veggies, lean meats such as chicken or fish. Avoid fast food or highly processed foods.
Make sure your diet is very clean and that you don’t eat anything that is new or your body isn’t used to. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water (including electrolytes) coming in leading into the race especially the day before so that you are hydrated. The day before the race – your largest meal of the day should be earlier in the day or to midday. Then ‘graze’ for the remainder of the day, still have dinner but not over so it.
Race morning meal ideally needs to be consumed 3hrs before race start. Complex carbs should be consumed – personal preference of what to eat is the way to go, so things like cooked oats, or some toast with banana, jam, honey + a high carb drink that will ensue you get the energy and fluid needed to start the race all fuelled up. You should be aiming for 2.5 to 3 grams per kg of your body weight for you prerace meal.
Make sure it is something that you have tried out before in long training sessions. Also avoid simple sugars before the race as these can cause blood sugar issues before you even start. Include carbohydrates that are more complex, which will allow a slower breakdown and release into the blood stream. Continue with water until the last 30 minutes prior to the race. You should be fully hydrated by that point. The last 25 minutes before the race- consider an energy gel for a final boost prior to the swim start.
If during the race you are getting some upsets in the tummy it best to go back to water for a bit to help dilute the concentrations of carbs in the gut. Once this settles that you can start to resume calorie consumption. Don’t forget to also take in water – (a combination of too much sports / carb drink and gels will be too much concentrated sugar). Remember that eating on the bike is recommended rather than trying to do in on the run, as digestion is much better during the bike.
Before starting the the run – drink up (not over doing it) in the last 20min of the bike. Once you have started the run and settled in take a gel in the first 3km. One every 30-40min will get you home. Try to stay off coke (if desire) till the second half of the run if possible as while it gives you a kick, you will have about 50min to 1hr before you go through a sugar low.
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