I like to follow a routine I am used to in the days leading up to a race. Whether it's a small developmental race or a big target race, it's always important to have full confidence in your preparation to maximise the chance of you delivering your best performance.
Race start times can vary from 6 am all the way to late evening races, so just following one strategy won’t necessarily work. Trusting what you are eating and sticking to what you know works can help with this plan.
It's often a learning process knowing what you can stomach when racing - I found that despite my love for milk, it would play havoc with my stomach on race day, so make sure you listen to your body and adapt accordingly.
Using this approach, I found a different breakfast on race day (which I’ll come to later) which was quite a light meal but most importantly, gave me enough energy to race. I’ll outline my plan for a 10 am Sprint distance triathlon race as an example:
06:55 – Wake up
07:00 – Breakfast: two/three slices of white toast (low fibre) with Nutella and sliced banana (carbs) with a glass of orange/ apple juice
07:30 – Start sipping on 500ml of water with a hydration tablet
08:30 – Sometimes an energy bar/banana depending on the duration of the race and how I am feeling
08:45 – Start sipping on carbohydrate drink before the race
10:00 – Race start
10:20 – Sip on around 300-400ml of carb drink on the bike or same quantity water + energy gel with 20-25g carbs, depending on race conditions such as temperature / humidity
11:00 – Race finish, rehydrate with water + hydro tablet and refuel with protein + carb drink (such as a REGO recovery powder)
11:30 - Recovery/ protein bar post cool down
12:30 – Post race fuelling and hydration: protein and carbohydrate elements key but also vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from fruit and vegetables to aid a compromised immune system from racing.
This would be my standard approach to races, however, as with all plans, there needs to be an element of flexibility with it. This means listening to your body and adjusting if necessary. Some other important facts to note;
• It's important to note that the 30-60 minute window post-exercise is when the absorption rate of carbohydrates and proteins is highest so it is very important to get good quality food in this period
• Post-race, it is important to keep the protein intake high even right up to before you sleep as this can lead to you feeling much better the day after the race.
• Some people like to go for porridge or a breakfast containing protein (e.g. eggs) but this is down to the individual. Sometimes you just need a bit of trial and error to find your most comfortable morning meal.
• I haven’t tried this yet, but caffeine just before the race which can decrease the perception of fatigue and increase alertness is sometimes included in a pre-race routine for some.
• Carbohydrate loading in the 48hr window has been shown to increase performance mainly on the bike, but for every 1g of glycogen stored your body retains around an additional 2.7g of water which could affect run performance.
• It is important to plan your race day nutrition with your race day plan, trying to get food down you when warming up is very difficult so you need to be prepared to be flexible but try and stick to your plan as much as possible