Tom Davis talks carb loading prior to race day  

27 May 2022


When the term ‘carb loading’ is mentioned, people tend to immediately picture pre-race pasta parties and Spaghetti Bolognese for breakfast. This may sound pleasing to the taste buds but it’s worthwhile to consider the impact this could have on your upcoming race.

Giant UK Ambassador and Triathlete, Tom Davis, understands the importance of being fuelled, ready for race day - but also acknowledges how detrimental overeating can be to performance. “We all train day-to-day on a fairly standard amount of fuel, but come race day, we tend to eat every single carb we can get our hands on which can leave us feeling heavy, bloated and generally flat.

For each gram of carbohydrate we store, we store around 3-4g of water weight. So, the more carbs we eat, the more water we store. Obviously to a certain level, this is a good thing, as starting the race well hydrated is key but if we up the carb intake so much, our bodies can’t really utilise the energy as the more the body stores the more we feel lethargic as the body is diverting blood to be able to deal with all of the food we’re putting into it”. 

So, what is the answer to avoid this? Tom explains that, “naturally as you head towards a race, the amount of training that we do will reduce. Even if we were to continue eating normally as if we were training, then the body would be topping up its stores, as our energy requirement would be reduced. That means that with the reduction in training, it's largely unnecessary to ‘carb load’ - as long as you just keep eating a normal diet. The approach I tend to use, and have found delivers me to race day much more effectively is as follows…

  • 7-3 days out from the race - Training is reduced, but continue to eat as normal, reducing the amount of fibre that you consume as you get closer to race day.
  • 2 days out - This is the day to up your carb intake slightly - you don't need to go crazy, but this is the opportunity to top up those energy reserves, with enough time for the body to still digest before you get to the race.
  • The day before - Eat normal amounts, but reduce the amount of fibre and other nutrients. You want to keep this as simple as possible. Also slightly increase fluid intake so that you arrive at the race well hydrated.
  • Race day - Eat a light breakfast, 3 hours before the race, and from there just sip on an energy drink into the race.  If you want to use an energy gel, then around 15-minutes before the start would be the ideal for this to give you the readily available energy for that initial part of the race, before you can start refuelling when you get to the bike!

Hopefully this will help you get to the next race feeling good to go, but without the heavy and lethargic feeling that can plague athletes on race day!

Follow Tom’s triathlon journey @tom_davis.tri