Thursday, March 29, 2007

Performance Nutrition

Below is an article I wrote for one of Triathlon Team's I was coaching and I was just re-reading it figuring out my nutrition for Saturday and thought you would enjoy reading it too! Print it out and save it for your next race day nutrition.

Performance Nutrition

By Rachel Cosgrove

Nutrition to enhance your performance

The following won’t help you if you have not been following the basic nutrition guidelines. Having your basic nutrition down creates a foundation during your training that you can add to and enhance performance above that foundation. If you have not built a strong foundation, performance nutrition isn’t a magic secret that will make up for it. Remember a diet that enhances health will enhance performance. Start with getting the basics down first before you worry about performance nutrition.

Remember everything you read below should first be tried in practice not on race day. Do not wait until race day to try your performance nutrition out. You should have already worked the plan and know what you will be doing that day. Nothing new on race day!

Also it is a good idea to find out what products they will be giving out at the aid stations at your race(Gatorade, power gel,etc.) so you can practice with those brands.

Common Mistakes

  • Not having a plan
  • Trying something new on race day- Nothing new on race day!
  • Too much nutrition on race day
  • Overhydrating- hyponatremia, days prior and race day
  • Lack of nutrition foundation during training- get the basics down first

Week before race

Carb Loading- The week leading up to the race you want to be sure your glycogen levels are completely full. This is done by increasing your carbohydrates in your diet and tapering your training so that you are not using up the glycogen and it can be stored.

There are a few different methods of carb loading, one in which you completely deplete your carbohydrates for a period of time and then increase them right before the race. This works but can be tricky and I don’t recommend it.

Instead I recommend the 7 days prior to your race eat a little extra carbohydrates than usual. Do not eat any different foods then you normally eat but just more of the foods that are a part of your diet already. In the research they showed that having 5g of carbohydrates per pound of body weight for the 3-7 days before your race can increase endurance by 20%.

Fluid Intake- The week before the race you have to get enough fluid in. You can’t wait until the day before your race and in one day try to hydrate. You need to be fully hydrated the entire week before the race(and hopefully your entire training). How do you know if you are drinking enough water? Is your Pee clear? If your urine is bright yellow or orange you are probably not drinking enough water.

Sodium Intake- NATA/ACSM recommend liberally salting your foods, if event >8 hrs or you are a heavy sweater +500mg for days pre race. So don’t be afraid to sprinkle a little extra salt on your food the week before the race and be sure to drink sports drinks that contain sodium and potassium. You can also use salt tablets if you are a heavy sweater. Take two tablets prior to race. Again try them before practice first. Keep drinking your water liberally.

Pre Race Nutrition(Day before and day of):

No new nutrition

Avoid gas causing foods

Avoid high fiber foods

Avoid sugar substitutes

Limit alcohol

Early dinner (allow time for digestion)

Nighttime snack to top off stores

Fluid recommendations day before- Drink a sports drink(such as Gatorade) and water throughout the day at a 1:1 ratio to avoid hyponatremia.

Some examples of a dinner-

Pasta, lean meat

Another example:


Baked Potato w/o skin, w/ salt

Odwalla superfood

Water/sports drink

On Race Day-

Top off glycogen stores

Less fiber/fat, Hi Glycemic foods are best because they will digest fast

Stick to familiar foods

Bring your food with you if you aren’t sure they will have it at the hotel

2-4 hours pre swim, wake up- Have your usual breakfast- yes you must eat something!

For example- Toast, fruit, sports drink

Oatmeal, n/f milk

Banana and PB sandwich

What about Caffeine?

Can affect aerobic endurance and muscle contraction positively

Effective dose- 5 mg/kg

More sensitive w/ less frequent use

So if you have had it before you can have a cup of coffee prior to the race to give you a boost.

After you have eaten breakfast have a sports bottle with you to continue taking in fluid and calories.


Use sports drink and water in a 1:1 ratio

17-20 ounces of fluids before race

10-20 minutes pre race 7-10 ounces

Bring something with you to the transition area to snack on in case it is awhile before your wave goes. This may be a cliff bar, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, etc.

Time to race…

During race

Throughout the race plan to take in:

-1 16-20 ounce bottle of fluid(sports drink) per hour

-200-300 calories an hour


Start fully loaded- if you followed the recommendations above your good

Out of water- often have a sore throat from salt water so at your transition have some water to soothe your throat but you probably won’t want to eat anything until you get on your bike


Last nutrition was before your swim so it has been awhile, it is time to refuel.

Need to eat as soon as your body adjusts.

Wait 10 min until body adjusts to new HR, tempo, respiration, muscles.

Then start taking in some fluid and a gel.

No solids 1st 20-30 minutes

This can be very individual so you need to account for intensity and climate and individuality.

Bike Nutrition:

Burn 600-800 kcal/hour on bike but can only oxidize .5-1 g carbs per min or

240 cal/ hr so taking in 300 cals an hour should be adequate. More than this could create GI distress.

Know your plan!

Know your kcals/ hour goals

Know what products work best

“Overeat on bike (>300 kcal/hr)as tolerated

Nutrition better tolerated on bike vs. run

60% solids/ 40% fluids

Front load solids and decrease cals last ½ hour to empty gut

Use- Bite size bars, gels, sports drink

If you become 1% dehydrated, you will be 2% slower. Get your fluids in during the bike.

Don’t wait to get thirsty- set timer as needed

If you are going to use salt tabs now is the time to take them.

Sports drinks should have 110mg/ 8 ounces of sodium.

Remember try to finish taking in nutrition 20-30 minutes before start the run to decrease GI distress.


High likelihood of GI distress during the run

Use gels and bars and not a ton of fluid.

Be careful taking something at every aid station.

Take in 200-300 calories every hour. If it is a sprint distance you may need one gel at the most during the run. Don’t take in too much


This is the most commonly forgotten nutrition- after you are done, give something back to your body!

After your race you have a decreased immune system and muscle damage

You need to eat something within 30 minutes.

Keep recovering

48 hours to refill glycogen