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This is a two part series on nutrition; Part 1 covered the basics and Carbohydrate Loading, Part 2 covers Race Day Nutrition, Forms & Methods of Ingestion and Sources.

Race Day Nutrition

It’s crucial to eat a pre-race meal in order to top up muscle and liver glycogen stores. A pre-race meal containing roughly 1-2g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight should be consumed about 3-4 hours before racing. Foods like liquid meal supplements, sports bars, bananas and juice are also popular pre-race meal choices.

According to research you should include some high-intensity activity in your warm-up. This helps to stimulate glucose release from the liver and prevents blood glucose levels from dropping too low. One such example might be including 5 x 50m race starts into a 10-15min easy swim prior to a half ironman event.

Due to the high intensity of short course racing, athletes competing in these events usually rely exclusively on sports drinks and sports gels to meet fuel and fluid losses. However, during long course events where you are competing over several hours, method of ingestion plays an important role in meeting hourly carbohydrate requirements. For shorter triathlon events, you should aim to consume 30-60g of carbohydrate an hour, whereas during Ironman events you should aim to consume 1-1½ grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per hour. For example, a 70kg male athlete contesting an Ironman event should aim to consume roughly 70-100g of carbohydrate an hour. It is critical to rehearse race day nutrition strategies prior to competition. You must know what you can tolerate, as well as what you require on race day to ensure adequate replenishment of fuel stores.

Never try anything new on race day!

Form and Method of Ingestion

Your body is better able to tolerate food and fluid during the bike leg compared to the run. The bike leg presents an opportunity to ingest a greater concentration of carbohydrate and, coupled with the fact that generally the ride consumes the greatest time portion of a race, should be where the majority of CHO is consumed. If solid forms of CHO such as sports bars and bananas are part of your nutrition plan they should be consumed on the bike. Fluid forms of CHO, such as High5, are best consumed systematically during the bike leg. That is, it is wise to mark your drink bottles prior to the race so you can monitor how much CHO you have consumed, and if you are meeting your requirements at various points throughout the race.

Sports Bars provide a compact source of energy, carbohydrate and protein; typically 30-50 g per bar. Most bars are low in fat (2-3 g per bar) and fibre. These characteristics make them ideal to eat when cycling or immediately after exercise when other solid foods are not well tolerated.

Sports Gels provide a highly concentrated and practical source of carbohydrate (65-70%) in easily consumed and quickly digested gel form. Substantially more concentrated in carbohydrate than sports drinks to provide a large fuel boost in a single serve.

The run presents many more challenges than the bike in meeting carbohydrate requirements. Most triathletes use fluids such as sports drinks and coca cola to simultaneously meet fluid and carbohydrate requirements during the run. Sports gels are also an easily digested form of CHO too. One method of ingestion is to mix High5 (as per the bike leg) into a Gu Flask, or empty the contents of 3-4gels into a similar container and consume systematically as per your individual requirements. For Ironman events, it is recommended that such forms of fuel are stored in fuel belts (which can also hold your race number).

It is critical to experiment with brands and composition in regards to CHO sources, and then plan and practice ingesting such sources in training leading into your event – which method do you find easiest and most effective. This includes the CHO loading phase; try CHO loading three and two weeks out from your said event the night before your race day bricks to ensure your body can cope with the excessive CHO levels.

Sources – The Carbohydrate content of various foods

Here are some common examples of various foods that provide 50g of CHO:

Wheat biscuit cereal (e.g. Weet Bix) 60g (5 biscuits)

‘Light’ breakfast cereal (e.g. Cornflakes) 60 g (2 cups)

Bread 100 g (4 slices white or 3 thick wholegrain)

Muesli bar 2.5

Pancakes 150 g (2 medium)

Rice, boiled 180g (1 cup)

Pasta or noodles, boiled 200 g (1.3 cups)

Fresh fruit salad 500 g (2.5 cups)

Bananas 2 medium-large

Potatoes 350 g (1 very large or 3 medium)

Flavoured milk 560 ml

Flavoured non-fat yoghurt 350 g (2 individual tubs)

Ice-cream 250 g (10 Tbsp)

Jubes and jelly babies 60 g

Pizza 200 g (medium -1/4 thick or 1/3 thin)

Lasagne 400 g serve

Sports drink 700 ml

Carbohydrate loader supplement 250 ml

Sports bar 1-1.5 bars

Sports gels 2 sachets

(Source: Peak Performance: training and nutritional strategies for sport J. Hawley and L. Burke. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1998).


Circumstance Recommended carbohydrate intake

Daily refuelling needs for training programs less than 60-90 min per day or low intensity exercise Daily intake of 5-7 g per kg BM

Daily refuelling for training programs greater than 90-120 min per day Daily intake of 7-10 g per kg BM

Daily refuelling for athletes undertaking extreme exercise program – 6-8 hours per day (cycling tour) Daily intake of 10-12+ g per kg BM

Carbohydrate loading for endurance and ultra-endurance events Daily intake of 7-10 g per kg BM

Pre-event meal Meal eaten 1-4 hours pre-competition 1-4 g per kg BM

Carbohydrate intake during training sessions and competition events greater than 1 hour 1 g per kg per hour

Rapid recovery after training session or multi-day competition, especially when there is less than 8 h until next session Intake of 1 g per kg BM in the first 30 min after exercise, repeated every 1-2 hours until regular meal patterns are resumed

All content is extracted or adapted from information provided by the AIS sports nutrition department and its staff.

The content and information in this article should be used as a guide only. For more information, or a personalised CHO loading phase or race day nutrition plan contact ETPA or Evolution Cycles directly. To sample or purchase nutrition for sports performance please contact our partners Evolution Cycles.

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