It seems incredible, but I think that as I get older I’m actually getting wiser. It doesn’t stop me doing some pretty dumb things along the way though. The trick is to always learn from your mistakes. Check out my article in 220 Triathlon magazine to get the full story, but let’s just say – taping your gels to the top tube of your bike on a rainy day in Cairns is always going to end badly. My point is that in the past I haven’t given the nutrition side of my preparation the attention that it deserved and as a result it’s cost me places in races. When it comes to nutrition, you’ve got to think carefully about it and plan for it, especially when it comes to racing.
Nutrition is a massive topic and it’s impossible to cover everything in one go, so the 220 Tri article is a ‘Bento box’ of ideas, information and tips covering the lead-up to race day, race day itself and then post-race recovery. Since you’re here on the website, I want to give you some bonus content. Think of it this way… if the 220 Tri article is the Bento box, this is the sneaky Mars Bar – a little treat to hit the spot and keep you going.
Welcome to Tim’s Kitchen
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Endura products. Yes, they’re a valued sponsor, but that’s because the Endura stuff really works for me. Check out the video below where I go into detail about what my nutrition plan looks like for training and racing. I also give you the secret recipe to my recovery drink – a must for that post-race/post-training recovery.
I’ve started to give a whole lot more time to getting the nutrition side of things right and this has definitely paid off. This leads me to my first point:
#1 – Prepare your nutrition plan carefully so it’s one less thing you need to think about when you’re training or racing. The bottom line is that making decisions takes mental energy and believe it or not, it saps your will-power. Studies seem to indicate we’ve got a limited amount of will-power to access each day. That’s why we tend to make bad decisions when we’re tired or later in the day – our reserves have run out.
The less you need to think and make decisions when you’re racing, the more you can stay in the moment and focus on the job at hand. Losing my gels in Cairns wasn’t just a problem because I lost my fuel. It was also a major distraction because I was thinking and worrying about the impact it would have on my race.
It’s the same when you’re training. Let’s be honest – some mornings it’s hard enough getting up and getting on the bike or into the pool, without having to make decisions about what you’re going to eat. Routine is your friend – it saves you valuable mental energy that you can use on training and racing harder – so develop your own routines – a morning routine, a pre-training routine, a pre-race routine. You will definitely reap the benefits.
For more on morning routines, check out Tim Ferriss of 4 Hour Work Week & 4 Hour Body fame and his blog post.
#2 – Realise that food is more than calories
There’s a scene in The Matrix movie, set in the future, where Keanu Reeve’s character is sitting down and eating ‘dinner’. It’s a tasteless, disgusting-looking grey slime but, as one of the other characters points out, it’s scientifically designed to contain all the nutrients they need. Sure, it meets their dietary requirements, but mentally and emotionally it’s a disaster. And that’s my point – food is much more than fuel for your body.
So here are a few things to think about:
- Try to eat clean and eat healthy. Learn to be creative and you can also eat tasty at the same time.
- Moderation and variety don’t just keep you healthy, they keep you motivated to keep up a balanced diet. That doesn’t mean it’s not good to pig out once in a while!
- Food isn’t just fuel – there’s a whole psychological side to it as well. That can be about being social and eating with friends or it can be providing a mental boost in the middle of a race – a treat to get you back into the game, like my sneaky Mars Bar or a bit of delicious banana bread.
- The food you eat today will have longer-term effects that go beyond just your racing career. We’re talking about developing good habits, and good health, for life.
#3 – It’s all about the timing
Just like comedy, the most important thing about nutrition is timing. It’s not just what you eat or even how you eat, it’s all about when you eat. This gets back to working out a routine that suits you – it’s a very personal thing.
My stomach can be a little sensitive sometimes, so I’m careful about when and what I eat before I race. For example, when it comes to carb-loading before a race, not all carbs are the same. Discover which foods help you feel energised and happy, not bloated and slow. The same goes for your pre-race meal(s). Consider carefully what you take on-board pre-race.
What and when you eat is pretty critical to how you’re going to feel when you get to the start line. For some athletes, consuming carbs within an hour of exercising can actually lead to a downward spike in blood glucose concentration, leaving them feeling fatigued before they even start the race.
I’d love to be able to tell you exactly what and when to eat before and on race day… but one size definitely doesn’t fit all. I do know what suits me and it’s been a process of trial and error. I stick with my Endura gear because I know it works and it’s part of my routine now. You need to discover what works best for you. Definitely do your research, but don’t simply do something because one of the pros is doing it that way. Learn, trial and tweak until you find what gives you the best results. Remember – get your nutrition right and you’re fuelling for success!
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