How to Sabotage Your Race-Day Nutrition Plan
By Bob Seebohar
Obviously the title of this article caught your eye, but I am not going to provide information about how to sabotage your race day nutrition plan but rather, how to avoid it. You spend months pouring in time, money and hard work to prepare for your race season and the last thing you want to have happen on race day is to have a poor showing or possibly even a DNF due to poor nutrition choices. Below are two common problems athletes I work with sometimes experience on race day.
Poor Choice #1: Being Inefficient
Many endurance athletes have adopted the metabolic efficiency concept where they alter their daily nutrition to improve their body’s ability to use more fat as energy and preserve their carbohydrate stores. This usually takes weeks to months depending on how keen the athlete is on making dietary changes but in the long run, provides the athlete with a lower calorie need per hour during competition, little risk of GI distress and a lower body weight and improved body composition. All of these can be extremely beneficial for triathletes. However, many athletes will make the mistake of reverting back to old habits the week before a race.
It is important to remember that developing metabolic efficiency is similar to mechanical (swim, bike or run) efficiency. For example, if you spend months improving your swim technique, would you revert back to your old, less-efficient technique to use in your race? Of course not; that’s just plain silly. So why do so many athletes believe that they should send their blood sugar into a downward spiral the days leading up to a race by shoving in as carbohydrates as possible? Efficiency, once developed, should be supported and that is exactly what you should do the week before a race. If you have worked hard at developing metabolic efficiency, do not abandon it by carbohydrate loading the week of your race. It is simply not needed because you have taught your body to utilized your internal fat stores more efficiently and thus preserve your carbohydrate stores.
Poor Choice #2: Travel Woes
It’s no secret that athletes travel to competitions, even if it is just a few hours from home. This can have significant consequences on normal eating and hydration habits which can have an effect on race day nutrition by altering your gut health. Often times, new foods are introduced due to being away from home but the good news is that there is an easy resolution to this. An athlete’s best line of defense for travel nutrition woes is planning and preparation. Take familiar foods with you and plan ahead by locating local grocery stores and familiar eateries that your gut will already be adapted to. Bring or buy your normal food and stick to the same eating routine that you do while you are home.
At the end of the day, your race day nutrition success falls into your hands. Make smart choices and trust your body’s instincts and efficiencies and you will have a successful race!
Bob Seebohar was the 2008 Olympic Sport Dietitian and was the personal sport dietitian for the USA Triathlon Olympic Team. Bob is also an elite triathlon coach and works alongside Susan Williams, 2004 Olympic Triathlon Bronze medalist, delivering coaching services to professionals, age-groupers and youth in Littleton, Colo. Bob’s book, Metabolic Efficiency Training: Teaching the Body to Use Fat, is a great resource for athletes to learn how to teach the body to become more efficient in using its fat stores. Visit www.fuel4mance.com for more information or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.