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The Secret to Race Day Nutrition

I recently saw a post on social media from a woman asking about what someone would recommend for nutrition while training for a marathon. This is a question I dislike when people answer because there is no one-size-fits-all or even one-size-fits-most answer to this.

When I first started running marathons back in 2011-2012, my answer was found in one of Jeff Galloway’s books and it was an honest answer: try things out in training.

Since my nerdy analytical side loves data and science, I knew for me I could already rule out Gu and Gel simply because I have texture phobias and they would not sit well with me. However, not everyone has that problem and that is often the first thing they experiment with.

My best advice is to try things in training. Try new things one at a time to eliminate trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. So, on a short run like a 6 mile or so, see how one of your options might work out. Then, if you find one you like, try it on a longer run to see if it works then and doesn’t cause any GI issues. If you find you’ve found your magic nutrition, then, you can add the second variable of hydration.

Let's look at some pros and cons of a few of the more popular nutrition options. Please note, these aren’t all and there are many more out there. You may find yourself doing several tests before you find your perfect combination. 

*It took me 5 years to get my perfect combination.

Nutrition Type Pros Cons
Gus & Gels Easy to carry, quick shots of energy. Don't always sit well with people's stomachs, energy burst is often short and you need to take quite a few.
Sport Beans Super yummy, hello who doesn't like jelly beans?!? Don't travel well since the packaging is somewhat awkward in size. 
Block Chews Like hard gummies, you can suck on them for a while as you're running or riding. Each block is about 30 calories so plan on carrying multiples. They're long and can fold easily into pockets.  Stick to your teeth. Not everyone pays attention to the fine print, but especially with the Margarita flavor where there's 3x the salt, you don't want to be left feeling dehydrated. Make sure you drink water after each one.
Honey Stinger Waffles Another good option, especially if you like to munch on things.  Like the beans, they can be awkward to carry due to the flat, round size. But they fit nicely in back pockets. 
Energy Bars So many of these out there, Clif, Luna, my personal favorite is Ucan coffee. It tastes like cookie dough and has a slow energy release so it's not a quick hit of energy that will fizzle.  Can be difficult to eat if they have melted. My favorite, the Ucan, has a tendency to do that. I find they are best for carrying in a pack of some sort as they're less likely to melt. Can also be dry and sticky in your mouth. 
Food Yep, some of us like food. Pack something in a ziplock, some trail mix, dried fruit, maybe an Uncrustable... Awkward to carry, requires prep work, and depending on what you're carrying could melt or go bad. Try to go with non-perishable items or put some lemon on those apple slices. 

 
As I mentioned before, these are just a small assortment of options out there. You can find a lot out there and one that will work with your body. Make sure you track what works well for you. If you find something gives you a burst of energy but then leaves you feeling like you’ve bonked, you may want to try something else. Log your run distances, what you had, at what point you took it, how you felt, and keep track of that data.

Also, certain flavors may work better for you than others. I have some people say they like the peanut butter Gus because it’s like eating peanut butter, or the margarita Chomp Bloks because it has more salt in them. So, the secret to the perfect race day nutrition is: Play scientist, practice in training to see what works so you’ll be ready on race day.

For more race day preparation, check out How to Survive Your First Triathlon

Written by Jenny Teague, Siren Luminary 

Follow Jenny on Instagram @adventuresintraining

(Reposted with permission from Jenny Teague at www.adventuresintraining.com)

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