Race day nutrition

Race season is almost here, you’re training is coming together and you have tried and tested your nutrition plan for race day.... or have you?. Have you even thought about your race day nutrition plan yet?

 Don't ruin your hard training by getting your nutrition wrong during the race

Don't ruin your hard training by getting your nutrition wrong during the race

You need to be practicing and fine tuning what you’ll be doing in the race now, it’s better to realise what brands you don’t get on with during a training ride then on the big day, and now is the time to find out how much you can handle – don’t just assume you need or can tolerate the same amount as your mate.

If you’ve yet to even think about this do some planning ahead of this weekend’s training – think about how much you should need in your race and at what time points you’ll take it, then stick to that plan and see how you feel and tweak it in your next session.

A rough guide to the amount of carbohydrate you need to be taking on is:

  • up to 75mins, minimal needed, water alone is fine
  • 75mins – 2hrs, up to 30g/h – from this point on nutritional training is advised to get your gut used to processing carbohydrate while you are exercising
  • 2–3hrs, 60g/h
  • 3hrs+, >60g/h, 90g/h is about the max that can be tolerated.

These are guidelines, some people will handle/prefer much less, and if you’re smaller you’ll probably want to be near the lower ends of suggested amounts. The key is to find out what works for you.

First, work out how much you might need for length of your planned race. For example a regular energy gel is 20-25g of carb, sports drink 7.5g of carbohydrate per 100 ml, an energy bar could be 45g carb/bar and energy chews can be 8g carb per block (different brands differ so check your preferred brands first).

Taking the bike section - where you'll consume the majority of your calories (can't in the swim, not as easy when running) If you’ll be riding for 3hrs then you might need 1 bottle of energy drink, 1 energy bar and 1 gel.

Second, think about when you need to take them on. Hydration is vital, it seems obvious to drink but on race day it’s too easy to forget once you’re in race mode so it’s good to have in your plan to drink every 15mins.

Energy bars can contain fat, fibre and protein, which slow down absorption, so I would break a bar into 4 bites and have a bite every 30mins rather than all in one go. In addition, you should look for bars that have the lowest fat/fibre/protein amounts and mainly carbs to reduce the risk of GI problems.

Gels are made of simple sugars, which are digested quickly into the bloodstream to provide energy shortly after consuming them. You might want to take a gel towards the end of the race to give you that kick for home and fire you up for the start of the run. So you might want that gel 20 mins before the end of the bike. Then maybe another one at 10k in the run.

Third, test it out! Above are all suggested timings and amounts, once you’ve worked out your plan, test it, test it and test it again. If you might forget to stick to your carefully thought out plan make a note and tape it to your toptube, or set an alarm on your watch to beep every 15 mins.

Happy training, and fuelling!