Diet & Fueling in Taper Time
What to maintain – and what to change – during the lead-up to target events.
The Ironman World Championships are finally going to happen and I couldn’t be more excited. I have had a fantastic build, am healthy, and eager to toe the line – It is officially taper time.
I’ve been asked quite a few times recently by the athletes I coach about how they should change their diet when they are leading into a high priority race, so I thought I’d throw a few of my thoughts on the matter together since I’m sure others have similar questions.
Matt Hanson, EdD
When it comes to long course triathlon, lower body weight isn’t always better. I spend a lot more attention to my weight during an Ironman build as I am trying to ensure I am not LOSING too much! The high training volumes have a huge caloric cost. So, obviously, I’m consuming more and more to try to meet that demand.
As I start to back off the training load as race day approaches, I actually recommend not changing all that much on the nutrition side of things. Up through the night before the race, I tend to keep meals pretty much the same. I drink to thirst as always, and continue with the same supplement routine.
As I enter the taper, I’ll keep some high-intensity work in the program. This will still empty muscle glycogen stores as normal. The higher intensity intervals can also be the stimulus that helps them allow a bit more storage as you begin the carb loading process. I may reduce the snacks throughout the day since those are typically based on hunger, but keeping the meals relatively the same will essentially take care of the carb loading process without needing to take in so much the night before the race that you wake up feeling bloated or overly full still.
“Can’t say enough about EFS-PRO! Multiple CHO sources, huge electrolyte blend, BCAAs, Suntheanine, and PharmaGABA all in one. And somehow, they managed to make it taste great. This is my go-to for long hot racing and training.”
Matt Hanson, EdD
Two days before a race, I might add a bit more salt to my food. If it is going to be a hot race, I’ll be drinking EFS-PRO mixed at ½ strength rather than just water. (And definitely do this the day before the race and morning of, regardless of race temp!) I keep my breakfast and lunch pretty normal the day before the race as well.
The night before the race, I always have Chicken, white rice, and broccoli. I want to reduce the fiber starting the night before the race and make sure I have foods I am comfortable with and can get wherever I am racing. I’ll drink a little more fluids the day before a race, but not so much that it keeps me up all night making trips to the toilet!
Race morning, I typically have one serving of Ultragen, a cup of coffee, some oatmeal/grits, and some applesauce. My breakfast is just meant to replenish the calories that I burnt overnight so I can start the race with a full tank. I like to feel like I am a little hungry at the start of the race, but know that I have full tanks. That gives me confidence that I won’t have GI issues during the race which can quickly derail your day. I’ll sip on EFS-PRO throughout the morning as I’m getting my transition area set up, then take a Liquid Shot about 5 minutes before the swim start.
TRUST YOUR BODY, TRUST YOUR ROUTINE
I’ve continually tinkered with this process to find what best works for me. That is always my biggest piece of advice when the athletes I coach ask about race week nutrition. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so you need to practice this. Your last few long workouts leading into the race are a great time for this!
It is also a wise move to plan ahead and know where/what you are going to eat before you travel. There isn’t much worse than being fully “hangry” when traveling and settling for whatever is convenient because you didn’t plan ahead!
Finally, make sure you follow the “nothing new on race week” with your food as well. Race week isn’t the time to be adventurous. Stick with what you know your stomach can handle and will sit well!