I am definitely not an expert when it comes to nutrition. While I have figured out a few things in the last 10 years of racing, there is still a lot left for me to learn. Fortunately, there are many knowledgeable people out there who like to share their wisdom with us. One of them is Debbie Perry, a Certified Sports Nutrition Advisor, Certified USAT Triathlon Coach, and all-American triathlete. I have had the privilege of racing with her for a few years and she has been a great example to everyone in the sport. She gives us great advice on carbo loading during the week of our race in her latest article in the Rocky Mountain Running and Triathlon Magazine.
First, we are to eat a “normal, healthy diet with carbs making up approximately 50% of your total calories.” At the beginning of the week, we should not eat more than usual and refrain from processed or high-glycemic foods. Instead, we need to “focus on eating lean protein, good fats, fruits, starchy produce, and green veggies. Also, drink lots of water.” Second, the last three days before our race, she suggests we keep workouts short, but “refuel big.” So after your light training session, grab a recovery drink immediately and then eat a good meal within the next hour. Third, she reminds us that “other than post-workout food, eat normally, even the night before the race.” So don’t pig out at this point, but consume some high quality carbs, along with a little lean protein and good fat. Last but definitely not least, drink extra water.
Here is what I like to eat for dinner the night before a race: grilled chicken breast, steamed broccoli, sweet potato “fries”, and fruit for dessert. Simple but good. Unfortunately, I am not always home or able to make dinner that night. In that case, I still try to follow Debbie’s rules and stick with familiar foods.
As far as race morning nutrition is concerned, I suggest reading Debbie’s article on that subject. You can find it here: http://saltlakerunningco.com/home/2010/03/2486/. After some stomach issues earlier this year, I have only been eating a Lara bar and/or banana before my last few races. This seems to work well for me when racing a sprint or olympic distance triathlon. I also always take a gel 15-20 minutes before the race starts. Whatever it is you eat, make sure you practice your nutrition during training in order to avoid unwanted surprises.