Beach 2 Battleship is an endurance event and includes a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. Athletes competing in this event, and events similar, thrive on the excitement they generate. Just finishing the race gives the athlete a sense of tremendous accomplishment. I find it interesting that one of the most common reasons for not finishing a race is improper nutrition. Therefore, my goal is to set out some simple nutritional guidelines for the triathlete.
I am specifically going to discuss nutrition with respect to pre-competition (days before the event) and competition (race) day. However, if you are an athlete competing in the Beach 2 Battleship on Oct. 29, and have not considered nutrition until now, my advice may help you to complete the event, but not necessarily perform your best. To do that, you must follow a nutrition plan throughout the year that supports your training competition, and recovery. We call this nutrition periodization. I promise more on that in another post.
For the week leading up to the event, you should maintain adequate hydration (last post) and eat a well balanced diet with the majority of your calories coming from good carbohydrate sources. Carbs are the preferred fuel for exercising muscles, will help you to avoid fatigue during the race and are a plus for perseverance, enabling you to work at high intensity.
Carbohydrate intake should range from 7 to 13 g/kg of body weight (for a 150 pound individual this is 477-887 grams of carbs or 1908-3548 calories/day from carbohydrate alone). Good carbohydrate sources are whole grain breads and cereals, low fat muffins, pancakes, waffles, fruits, vegetables including white and sweet potatoes, brown rice and pasta.
Protein intake should range from 1.4 to 2.0 g/kg of body weight (for the 150 pound individual this is 95 to 136 g protein/day). Good protein sources include fish and seafood, poultry, lean meats, low fat or non fat dairy products (i.e. milk, yogurt and cheese) eggs, legumes, nuts and soy. The typical American diet has adequate amounts of protein so you should not have to rely on supplements.
Fat intake should make up the remainder of your calories and the general range is from 0.8 to 1.0 g/kg of body weight (for the 150 pound individual this is 55-68 grams/day). Emphasis should be on heart healthy fats such as canola and olive oils, nuts and avocados.
During the week leading up to the event you should remain in energy balance. That is, you should be taking in enough calories to support your training without weight loss. Weight loss at this time could negatively affect performance.
Nutrition for race day should include food for before and during the race. Before the start of the race have either breakfast or a snack and eat only familiar foods. This meal or snack should neither leave you hungry nor leave you with undigested food in your stomach. Avoid high fat foods and fiber, as they delay gastric emptying and cause possible gastrointestinal upset. How much you eat depends on how close the meal/snack is to the start of the race. If you have 3-4 hours before the start you have time for a meal something like this: orange juice, scrambled eggs, and pancakes with maple syrup.
If you have only one hour before the start of the race, you should have a snack of about 100 to 200 calories from carbohydrate. Some snack ideas are: banana or other fruit, jam sandwich, 1/2 bagel with honey, fig bars or sport bar with the majority of calories coming from carbohydrate.
During the race you will need to consume anywhere from 30-100 grams of carbohydrate each hour (or 120-400 calories per hour from carbs). This is a “ballpark” range and should be individualized for each athlete based on numerous variables including body size, carbohydrate availability, tolerance, and pre-race dietary intake. Inclusion of some sport drinks will provide carbs (18 ounces of a sport drink has 30 grams of carbohydrate or 120 calories from carbs). But as I mentioned in the last post, you will not likely be able to tolerate the amount of sport drink necessary to get all your fluid, well the same holds true for carbohydrate. You will need to have some handy high carb solids or semisolids in addition to sport drinks to obtain all the necessary carbohydrates. Use what has worked during your training. Some ideas: pretzels, bananas, sport gels or small pieces of any of the following: candy bars, cookies, low fat granola bars, or sport bars.
Start organizing your race day nutrition plan now with foods you are familiar with. Proper nutrition will help you to avoid early fatigue and give you the best possible chance of successfully completing this enormous feat!