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Everything I ate and drank on day of Aarschot Tri

Many things need to come together on race day to have a good race. A healthy, well-timed eating plan will set you up with a good change of having the performance you’re capable of.

First off, it is important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all. Personal tastes differ a lot, for instance. If you can’t stomach the foods I like, that’s not going to work for you. Another factor is the level of fat burning you have at the time. If you’re still burning relatively high amounts of sugar even at rest, a low-carb-high-fat breakfast won’t give you those fully replenished glycogen stores you desperately need. Or vice versa, if you’re a high fat burner, a hig-carb meal with little natural fat will hinder your fat burning for that day and possibly jeopardize your performance potential.

Breakfast

No matter the start time of the race, I will always begin the day with a solid breakfast (like I explained in a previous post here). I just make sure I finish any meal worth mentioning 2.5-3 hours before the gun goes off. Since I finished breakfast at 8 a.m., and the race was 5 hours later, I had an extra mini-breakfast around 10:30. 
I actually had a brilliant idea, that weekend. I put a handful of home grown redcurrant in the food processor, added about the same amount of mascarpone, and turned that solid, high-fat mascarpone into a soft and creamy kind of yoghurt. Some mango, peach, more redcurrant, and some granola on top, was a tasty and nutricious start of the day.

Hydration

Aarschot is a good 1.5 hour drive from our house, so I had some water in the car. Hard to say how much, as I go by thirst. To quote Prof. Timothy Noakes’ book title, I don’t want to get Waterlogged. I had prepared a 800 ml bottle of 5% honey water for the race itself. After filling the bike’s headset aero-bottle, I diluted the rest to about 2% and sipped on that until heading to the swim start.

Race nutrition

13:00 o’clock, race time! Obviously, no drinking or anything during the swim. Once on the bike, almost immediately, I started having that sweet honey water. Going by thirst, as usual, I ended up having no more than 400 ml, which contained about 16 g simple carbohydrates (i.e. 64 kcalories). Not much for a hard bike effort that lasted 1 hour 47 minutes.
On the 15 K hilly run, we had enough aid stations, however, the only two options were water and coke (Pepsi, I believe). I wasn’t having coke! Only water then, which reinforced my initial plan to not overcook laps 1 and 2. It may have helped me hold pace the entire run.

Why should thirst determine sugar intake during the race?
You may be wondering, if the amount of sugars (honey) I get in on the bike would matter, why I let it depend on how much water my body happens to be desiring. You’re right, that doesn’t make much sense and may be risky. Remember, though, the more sugar-dependent your metabolism is, the riskier this is. Training sessions are when you should experiment to find out the minimum of sugars your body needs to function. For me, I am pretty confident that I won’t bonk as long as I get just a little bit of honey in.

To answer the question in the header, it actually should not. All I want is to simplify my race nutrition strategy. I let sugar intake depend on my estimation of how much water I’ll want to drink; for this race, how many ml/hour on the bike. Basically, it depends on weather conditions, more specifically heat, sunshine and air humidity. In Aarschot, it was overcast, mild temperatures, not the most thirsty weather conditions. I thought my 580 ml aero-bottle would be plenty. So the remaining question was, what honey concentration did I want. I went for 5%, which equals about 4% simple sugars.

In Hawai’ian conditions, so to speak, my thirst sense would tell me to drink much more. The aero-bottle would not suffice for those 60 K on the bike. Practically, I would need an extra bottle cage on the frame. I would probably go for 2-3% honey, in this situation.

Recovery nutrition

In the athletes zone at the finish, I usually go for refreshing fruits. My favourites among the fruits they usually have are orange and watermelon. After several pieces of these, I had a banana and some water. That way, the most acute depletion of glycogen and fluids is replenished. I usually steer away from the other classic finish line snacks, such as cookies, sugar waffles, candy. I did take a waffle as a treat for my kids, and I might have had a bite myself. In the rare case that fruits are not offered, I will have a sports drink instead.

After sorting out our gear and changing into dry clothes, we sat down for dinner on a terrace outside a little restaurant. I went for a simple tomato omelet with bread and butter on the side. The eggs provided complete proteins for muscle tissue recovery. I also helped finish our friend’s salad, for more vitamins, minerals and many other useful micronutrients. I think I had a still water to drink, as well.

It was a fairly long drive home. Only then did I become very thirsty, not surprising considering how little I drank during the 3.5 hour race. My thirst sense was ordering me to drink loads, as opposed to earlier that day. Moral of the story, it all turned out just fine.

When it comes to race day nutrition, it is very important to realize where you are on the fat burning scale. Organize your food intake accordingly. A mistake many athletes make is to copy-paste an eating plan that worked wonders one time, but may no longer be ideal now. If you’ve changed your eating (and training) habits for the better since then, your body is used to a different fat:carb ratio. You are now less dependent on sugar intake, in rest as well as in race. Safest is to eat foods you’re in the habit of eating, nothing special just because it’s race day. When it comes to quantities and timing, hard and long training days are excellent opportunities to try things out.

One thought on “Everything I ate and drank on day of Aarschot Tri

  1. dries says:

    Nice om te lezen, ben al benieuwd naar het vervolg.

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