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Simple, yet effective, pre race nutrition tips

Posted Jun 02 2010 7:31am
The latest Iron Girl newsletter (FREE!!!) was filled with great information.
I've been with the Iron Girl/Ironman family for the last 4 years and I can't fully express how honored I am to be able to contribute to helping other future Iron Girls and Ironman/70.3 athletes...and to be an Ironman/Iron Girl athlete. I have never been disappointed by a race and I always look forward to the Ironman/Iron Girl experience.
Here's the list of upcoming Iron Girl eventsAtlanta, GA - June 27 - Triathlon - sold out (I'll be there!!!)
Racine, WI - July 31 - Triathlon
Syracuse, NY - August 7 - Triathlon- sold out
Columbia, MD - August 22 - Triathlon - sold out
Boulder, CO - August 28 - Triathlon
Seattle, WA - September 12 - Run/Walk
Lake Tahoe South Shore, CA - September 19 - Triathlon
Bloomington, MN - September 26 - Duathlon
Tempe, AZ - November 14 - Run/Walk


Enjoy my latest article
Simple, yet effective, pre race nutrition tips

Your nutrition plan is your nutrition plan. Practice and experimentation will help you find what works best for you, depending on your racing distance and intensity.

Focus on a nutrient-rich diet, filled with wholesome and natural foods, on the days leading up to a race. The average American consumes two- to three- times more sodium than recommended, and a diet lacking in beneficial vitamins and minerals (not just sodium) can contribute to electrolyte imbalances and possible nutrition-related problems.

Avoid consuming a lot of high fructose corn syrup fruit/sport drinks, processed or sugary/fatty foods on the days leading up to a race. You may focus on foods that will enhance performance, but maintain a well-balanced diet that is rich in heart-healthy foods.

Prioritize your fueling strategy as you plan your training sessions. The more efficient you become with your training, the less fuel you will require before and during your workouts. The higher the heart rate during training, the more difficult it is to consume, digest and absorb nutrition products to maintain energy levels. A well-trained, efficient body is an easy-to-fuel body.

We all react differently to the fuels we put in our body. Although some fuels are more beneficial and useful than others (especially at longer distances) your age, fitness, body composition, height, intensity, duration, environment and terrain will pave the way to your individual, well-practiced fueling strategy.

Carbo- and calorie-loading the night before a race is now a past time. While it is acceptable to eat an extra serving or two of carbohydrates in the early evening before a race, your goal should not be to eat every carb in sight just because you have a race. As you taper for your race, maintain a normal diet as if you were training normally. Rather than eating a high calorie, heavy-carb meal the night before a race, focus on a portioned controlled (balanced) meal, rich in complex carbs and a little protein and healthy fat. Instead of just having a salad and fish, add a serving of brown rice and steamed veggies to your meal. Aim to eat between 5 and 6:30 p.m.

Do not feel starved before your pre-race dinner meal (or any meal, regardless of racing). Eat a pre-meal snack of 50 to 100 calories of protein and/or fiber (ex. nuts, string cheese, yogurt, apple, carrots, milk) approximately 20 to 30 minutes before your pre-race dinner is served. This will help prevent overeating and encourage proper digestion of fuel.

Stay hydrated on the days leading up to a race (and always!) Pass on carbonated beverages, soft drinks, energy drinks and alcoholic beverages before a race, which tend to satisfy the feeling of hunger but do not provide performance-enhancing nutrients.

Do not overeat the morning of a race. You are simply topping off your fuel tank. Whether it is 100 to 150 calories before a 5K or sprint triathlon or 350 to 650 calories before a marathon or Ironman (respectively), you should have plenty of stored carbs (glycogen) in your muscles and liver to fuel your race.

Focus on a complex carbs as the main component of your pre-race meal at least two to three hours prior to race start. Adding a little protein or fat to your carbohydrate pre-race meal or snack (ex. 1/2 bagel with peanut butter and banana slices rather than a bagel with banana) will stabilize blood sugar, slow down digestion and keep you satisfied throughout the race. The later you wait to eat solid food, the more likely your stomach will not agree with what you are putting in your body.

If you feel hungry before a race, remind yourself that any additional calories, on top of your pre-race meal, will not make your body move any faster during the race. With your taper, carb dinner and pre-race snack/meal, you have PLENTY of available fuel for the race. That funny feeling in your stomach is likely nerves, anxiety and/or excitement.

If you find yourself racing at an intensity that you did not train for and cannot sustain, be prepared for nutrition-related problems. Unfortunately, consuming extra energy gels, sport beans and high-calorie drinks at the aid stations will not give you energy to maintain an unsustainable/untrained effort. Sadly, we can't blame everything on nutrition.

Although you can improve performance by training with the best fuels possible, be realistic on race day and take advantage of aid stations, as well as bringing your own source of fuels. Be mindful that you are going to perform at your best on race day due to your previous training and not by what you drink/eat at the aid stations on the course. If your body does not tolerate what is offered at the aid stations, be prepared to bring along your own fuels.

Avoid negative self-talk before a race. Develop a healthy relationship with food so you can use it to fuel your workouts and your lifestyle. Your fitness is not defined by a number on a scale. Not being at your goal weight shouldn't deter you from performing at your best and having a great racing experience. Your weight will likely be the last thing on your mind when you are sprinting to the finish line.


Marni holds a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and holds a certification by the American Dietetic Association in Adult Weight Management. Marni is a Level-1 USAT Coach and is currently pursuing a registered dietician degree. She is a 2007 Ford Ironman World Championship finisher and finished the Ford Ironman Louisville Triathlon on Aug. 30, 2009, in less than 11 hours. Marni enjoys public speaking and writing, and she has several published articles in Hammer Endurance News, CosmoGirl magazine and Triathlete Magazine, and contributes monthly to IronGirl.com and Beginnertriathlete.com.
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