Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FUEL - BY PIP TAY­LOR

Ath­letes of­ten seek help for race-day nu­tri­tion in the days or weeks be­fore their big event. While it’s never too late to fine tune and make ad­just­ments, nail­ing your race-day nu­tri­tion is much more likely if you get a head start dur­ing the off-sea­son. So, if you have started plan­ning your races for the com­ing sea­son, take a mo­ment to also plan how nu­tri­tion will help you hit your tar­gets and PBS.

Be­fore you make any ma­jor changes get on top of a few num­bers and facts: • Sched­ule a med­i­cal check-up, in­clud­ing a blood test, to rule out any nu­tri­tional de­fi­cien­cies that need to be ad­dressed. For ath­letes, com­mon ar­eas of con­cern are iron and B12. While de­fi­cien­cies can be rel­a­tively eas­ily ad­dressed from a di­etary point of view, they can be crip­pling for race day re­sults. A sports nu­tri­tion­ist, or some­one ex­pe­ri­enced with ath­letes, health and per­for­mance, can help plot suit­able diet strate­gies. Keep a food log for a week or two to get a han­dle on what you are eat­ing. Most of us are de­fi­cient in qual­ity nu­tri­ents (usu­ally from in­ad­e­quate in­take of fruits and veg­eta­bles, cou­pled with high train­ing loads). Im­prov­ing nu­tri­ent den­sity – the amount of nu­tri­ents per calo­rie – in your day to day diet will, in it­self, boost race-day per­for­mance this sum­mer with­out any other changes. It will cer­tainly im­prove your over­all health. A ba­sic food log, cou­pled with an ac­tiv­ity and symp­tom/stress/sleep diary, may also help you fig­ure out if there are any food in­tol­er­ances or re­ac­tions that might pre­vent you from train­ing or re­cov­er­ing to your po­ten­tial. These logs can also help you un­der­stand the im­pact that cer­tain foods have on per­for­mance.

Once you have ironed out any nu­tri­tional de­fi­cien­cies or food in­tol­er­ances and are work­ing to cre­ate healthy habits in re­gards to nu­tri­ent den­sity, then get to work on some specifics for race day:

Think ahead to race day and think about what shape you want to be in. That work and plan­ning starts now. Op­ti­mal fit­ness and health will pro­vide best per­for­mances and max­i­mum en­joy­ment. Suc­cess, then, en­tails eat­ing with a strat­egy. Eat to max­i­mize re­cov­ery. Fuel to sup­port key work­outs and op­ti­mize train­ing adap­ta­tions. Work to­wards de­sired body com­po­si­tion changes. Eat to sup­port a healthy im­mune sys­tem and hor­monal func­tion. These good nu­tri­tion habits, prac­tised daily, will set the stage for race day. Pick a strat­egy and stick with it when it comes to the ac­tual race day plan. Use pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ences, as well as sound sports nu­tri­tion rec­om­men­da­tions, to come up with a plan for race day. The idea is not for it to be per­fect im­me­di­ately, but to give you some­thing to play around with in train­ing. Try your pro­posed race-day break­fast be­fore key work­outs. Test out sports drinks, bars, gels and other foods that you plan to have dur­ing the race. Again, the idea is not to repli­cate an en­tire race plan in train­ing, but to test out cer­tain el­e­ments, gaug­ing how they sit, how the taste or tex­ture ap­peals after hours on the bike, in dif­fer­ent weather con­di­tions and after dif­fer­ent race-day break­fasts (or pre-race din­ners). Some things take a while to fig­ure out and even small changes, such as flavour, tex­ture or con­sis­tency, can make a big dif­fer­ence. Train your gut: Just like train­ing your mus­cles, your gut needs some work­ing out if you ex­pect it to per­form on race day. For some key work­outs, or even just por­tions of a key work­out (i.e. an hour or two of a fourhour ride), test the ac­tual rate (amount of food and drink per hour) you would plan on tak­ing in dur­ing an ac­tual race. Your gut needs to get used to hav­ing this vol­ume and con­cen­tra­tion in it. We be­come bet­ter able to tol­er­ate, and ab­sorb, foods and flu­ids that we are ac­cus­tomed to hav­ing more fre­quently. Take notes. Treat your­self like a mini ex­per­i­ment and be pre­pared to change and ad­just that writ­ten plan ac­cord­ingly. Use smaller races to put your race plan into ac­tion and, per­haps, re­fine fur­ther, not­ing that weather and tem­per­a­ture may also af­fect the strat­egy. Re­flect on what you have learnt from the off-sea­son and take this through to your races. This might mean that you know you have to take cer­tain foods or sports foods and drinks with you to a race be­cause what they are serv­ing on course does not suit you. Or that you have a par­tic­u­lar pre-race break­fast that just seems to work. Try to be flex­i­ble, in­tu­itive and self­con­scious. Some­times even the best laid plans just don’t pan out and you can be left scram­bling on course feel­ing un­der fu­elled, de­hy­drated or bat­tling GI dis­tress. This is where you need to be pre­pared to tear up the script and lis­ten to your body. Tune in to what it needs and feel your way through. Dig deep into your mem­ory – it’s likely that you have ac­tu­ally ex­pe­ri­enced such a sit­u­a­tion in train­ing and were able to get through it. Be­ing able to rec­og­nize that this course of ac­tion is, in it­self, part of the plan (al­beit a backup plan) re­moves much of the stress which can worsen the sit­u­a­tion. Stay calm and be re­as­sured that al­ter­na­tives (fuel, flu­ids, tim­ing, etc.) will gen­er­ally get the job done.

Pip Tay­lor is a pro triath­lete and di­eti­tian from Aus­tralia.

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