Why You Shouldn't Wing Race-Day Nutrition

​By Steph Saullo

If I had a nickel (do people use those anymore?) for every time someone asked me about trying something new for their next race or competition, I wouldn't be writing this post.

If you have ever heard me speak about nutrition and sports performance, you will know that it takes practice. Your nutrition plan is just as important as having the right equipment, strength training to get stronger, improving your endurance, etc. Showing up to a competition without a nutrition plan is just like forgetting your goggles (or any other important piece of equipment).

I get it, there are a plethora of sports nutrition products on the market, and many times when you arrive at an event you are handed a goodie bag of new and promising foods. You just show up, and you are handed performance nutrition in a bag. So why not give any one of them a try?

Well, you might poop your pants or vomit or gag or feel nauseous, and who wants to experience any of those things before racing? OK, I may be a little dramatic, but it is quite possible that you may have an adverse reaction to something new before engaging in strenuous activity. It is in your best interest to leave new stuff to practice. Additionally, you cannot rely on your hunger or thirst to fuel/hydrate a successful race.

How do you start to build a race/competition day plan?

1.) Build a solid nutrition foundation for every day
You might have a solid race-day plan, but if your daily nutrition sucks, it might not help you win. Ensure your daily diet is full of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, good fats, and whole grains with adequate fluid before focusing too much on race day.

2.) Assess the length of your event
If you will be engaged in activity for more than 60-90 minutes, you need a nutrition plan for during the event. If the event is less than 60 minutes, then you will rely on what you eat before the event.

3.) Assess the starting time
If the start time is super early or earlier than you are accustomed to, you may have to reassess what you eat before the event or when you need to wake up in order to get in ample fuel.

4.) Will you be participating in multiple events?
If you will be competing in multiple events, you will need to think about food to eat in between those races.

Here are some ideas on what to eat:
- Gus/chews
- Fruit snacks or fruit leathers (you know, glorified Fruit Roll-Ups, although those work too)
- Fruit (such as grapes, raisins, and other small, easy-to-chew fruit)
- Cereal or granola bars
- Powders mixed with water (or juice, depending on tolerance)
- Wafer snacks
- Sports drinks (store-bought or homemade)

If your event will last longer than 2-3 hours (like an open water, long distance swim) you may also require fuel sources that include protein.

For multiple events, snack and hydrate in between each one. For events that are closer together, stick with mainly snacks that are predominantly carbohydrates.

Some more ideas:
- Sports drinks
- Fruit
- Cereal
- Bagels
- Cereal, granola, or protein bars
- PB&J sandwiches
- Pepperoni rolls
- Protein powder mixed with water, milk, or juice
- Premade shakes (with protein)

Regardless of your choice(s), you want to experiment and practice, practice, practice BEFORE race day, not on race day. If you choose not to, don't say I didn't warn you about the possibility of pooping your pants.

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Steph Saullo is the Performance Dietitian at RITTER Sports Performance. Saullo is a registered dietitian, has a master of science degree in food and nutrition, and specializes in nutrition for athletes of all ages and levels. She believes that although quality nutrition is a basis for health, there's also room for cookies (or insert favorite food here). If you need help building a nutrition plan for your next competition or should you need more guidance -- visit their website http://rittersp.com/athletenutrition for more information or email Steph at steph@rittersp.com.
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