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Dialing in your Race Nutrition

Dialing in your Race Nutrition
February 20, 2019 Erin Horil
race nutrition

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How to make race nutrition work for you

A little while ago, we made a video about nutrition “mechanics”, how the process food during exercise. (Watch it here if you haven’t seen it!) We focused on how much you should be eating during swimming, biking, and running races, we talked about good sources of that nutrition, and how the body uses that nutrition. Since then, I’ve received some questions about how to start applying this to practices, and how to prepare for races and the nutrition we’ll have to take in.

The worst case scenario is to not practice nutrition at all and use things for the first time on race day. This is a great way to have something go terribly wrong with GI distress! So, my answer to how soon you should start practicing nutrition depends on how comfortable you are with your nutrition. It will also depend on how great your propensity to GI distress is. The less comfortable and more prone to GI distress you are, the sooner you should start practicing!
Normally, the answer is the sooner the better, and here’s why. The more time you have to practice, the more used to your nutrition you’ll become. Secondly, you’ll have time to experiment what works and what doesn’t, and figure out how your body responds to nutrition. Finally, and importantly, if you’re fueling during your practices, you’ll be able to push yourself harder and farther than if you didn’t! This can help your fitness greatly.

Swim, Bike, Run race nutrition

So, for swimming. On race day, you’ll typically have a gu or s small snack 15-20 minutes before your race. So you can easily practice this before your swim workout- try having a gu before your morning swim practice. With long course athletes, you may be taking nutrition in the middle of your swim; this is easy to practice as well by leaving a gu on the pool deck to take in the middle of your workout.
For biking, taking nutrition is also easy, especially when indoors. You can set a small stool or side table next to you and keep whatever nutrition you’d like to try during the workout. There’s a few things to keep in mind here, though. Make sure you’re spacing out your nutrition and water intake. If you have a large number of calories or water at one time, you could have a bit of a gut bomb, which is not helpful for biking or running.
If you’re doing a brick, make sure you taper off of your food right before you start running. Again, filling yourself up with food right before your run may lead to GI distress or cramping as soon as you get off the bike, which is not ideal. Plan ahead!
Finally, with running, you want to practice with things that you’ll be able to tolerate in your stomach with all the jostling going around. For me, I do better by taking small bits of a gu at a time rather than trying to take the whole thing. I also do better with sips of water rather than a lot at once.
All these things, though, are things I was only able to learn while practicing. You’ll need to practice and find what works for you- maybe one product works for me that doesn’t work for you. However, whatever you do, make sure you start early and practice often to help your race go effortlessly from a nutrition standpoint. Happy training!

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