Last week I was asked to join in on a Google hangout with a triathlon coach. Unfortunately, the connection was poor so the talk about “What to eat the week before an Olympic Triathlon” got cut off. Good thing there is such a thing as Facebook Live so I managed to video tape the answer and uploaded it to my You Tube channel!
I will list the details below the video.
- Eat normally the week of your race.
Whatever your normal is, you want to eat that way the week before the race. If you decide to ‘eat clean’ or do some kind of detox plan, you may not get the adequate nutrients your body needs. And it may take a full week to adjust to these new eating ways.
If you are working with me or another sports nutritionist, you will have already modified the nutrition and food combinations so that you know what makes you feel good, and what foods fuel you best. The week before is not the time to test it out.
If you have been balancing your blood sugars with something like the Metabolic Efficiency Plan, then the week before looks about the same in terms of meal combinations, but your training will have decreased, so the food intake and hunger also decreases. So many athletes – and I was one of these, too – end up gaining weight the week before their races as their hunger is voracious and they keep eating more than their body really needs.
This is really a symptom of a carbohydrate heavy diet and shows a need to work on balancing blood sugar and making more balanced meal combinations.
- Electrolyte load 24 hours before your race.
This can be a tricky thing as most athletes do think of increasing their water intake the days leading up to a race. Problem is, a sudden increase in water may actually cause hyponatremia (what I call accelerated dehydration) as you flush electrolytes out of the body. Water intake is a good thing! But if you want to increase it, do so for the whole week gradually.
Then 24 hours before your event, add sea salt, chicken broth or your favorite electrolyte tablets with breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you are unsure of how much to use, you may want to get this Levelen testing done so you have definitive numbers as to how much sodium you lose per hour….so we can determine how much to use the day before and during your event to avoid dehydration.
It really has been a game changer for the heavy sweater who suffers in ultra runs or Ironman distance events with cramps, nausea, fatigue or overheating. (Use NIM code for your 10% discount on testing kits).
- Know what your pre-race dinner will be.
Part of your training for a marathon, ultra run, triathlon, Ironman or cycling event is to know what is the best combination for you to eat the night before.
The day before, you definitely want to make sure you get your meals in. Often when traveling, you kind of forget. But you do want to fuel with a well balanced meal every 4 hours or so.
Dinner should be something you are so used to having some protein with some pasta (do NOT pasta load), some vegetables (especially if you are used to eating them for dinner!) and some fat.
My favorite pre-race meal was always a piece of steak, steamed broccoli with butter and sea salt, a baked potato and 1 glass of red wine (to calm my nerves).
When I work with clients, i have them start paying attention to what meals make them feel best.
I had one client who found that turkey thighs, collard greens and a sweet potato worked best. They ended up eating that for breakfast, too!
Try different combinations in your training. Take that dinner before your long ride, run or brick day, and one day try pasta vs rice vs potatoes but keep the chicken, broccoli, etc the same.
Next time change the protein once you found your best pre-race carbohydrate. One day try fish, then chicken, then turkey or beef. You can also try this with the vegetables!
By the time you get to race week, you should have already determined what your best combinations are. If you don’t, we can work on this together, too.
Do NOT try some spicy food the night before.
Do NOT order fish unless you know it is fresh.
DO stick with safe options and maybe more bland, too to avoid a surprise response of the GI tract.
- Know what you are eating for breakfast.
This is similar to the pre-race dinner. Practice eating what you will plan on eating in training so this is not a surprise. If you have to pack hard boiled eggs to get some protein with your bagel or potatoes, take them in a cooler with you. Get up and practice your routine before those long rides, runs or brick sessions so you know exactly what to eat for breakfast and how soon before your event.
Don’t leave it to chance. Plan ahead and take what you can with you as you don’t always have the option wherever you go as the hotel restaurant may not be open at 5 AM.
- Do NOT carb load.
As I mentioned above, carb loading is not really a good idea. First off, carb loading is a practice where you have to avoid almost all carbs for 2 days, then eat twice as much as usual for 2 days….for a .10% increase in glycogen stores. I don’t think most of us could or would suffer thru the 2 days of no carbs for a measly improvement.
Best is to have your carbs maybe 1/4 more than your usual serving, but balance it with a healthy protein (20-30 grams), 1 cup of your favorite green vegetable and whatever fat you are used to. This can be butter, olive oil, olives (added salt, too!), avocado or ghee.
If you just have your carbs or pasta, you actually trigger the body into sugar burning mode and right out of stored fat burning mode. This can leave you feeling sluggish the next morning and needing more sugars during your event…which can lead to GI distress.
Your best racing is going to come from consistency and learning what foods and meal combinations work best for you. The week before is not the time to try anything new, but to maintain what you have been working on for the past months to prepare you physically for your race.
Don’t blow it with the wrong choices the week before.
Fuel with what you know. Eat what you know works best for you. But don’t change what you are going to eat the week before the race. Treat it like any long training weekend and eat the same way you always do. If you need help with making this part better, you can always schedule a call and we can discuss what options may be best for you.
Happy fueling and racing!