What to eat during the week before your triathlon

You should spend race week stuffing yourself with pasta, right? Think again, as what you eat or drink in the week before can make or break your race

Illustration by Daniel Seex

As anyone who’s ever bonked will know, nutrition can lead to a PB or a catastrophe. This is heightened during race week when your season goal lies at the end of it, and this is true whether you’re racing sprint, Olympic, middle or long distance, so all athletes need to choose carefully.


A common term is ‘carb loading’, when you pack your body with carbs in the race build-up so your energy levels are at their peak. “For middle- and long-course triathletes, you should definitely carb-load,” explains Gatorade’s sports scientist Matt Furber. “But you don’t need a week before. Increase the calories from carbs two to three days out. If you overeat at the start of race week, you’ll feel lethargic by race day.” Furber recommends either consuming five carb-rich meals a day, split evenly throughout, or having breakfast, lunch and dinner with high carb snacks in between.

As for sprint and Olympic, you don’t need to focus on carb loading. This is especially true of sprint because you’ll have enough glucose and glycogen in your body to cope with around 90mins of racing. Studies show that this level is around 500g, though is affected by genetics and fitness levels.

All of you should seek out foods that’ll provide sustained energy; in other words, low glycaemic index. We’re talking pasta, rice, vegetables and quinoa. You should look down at your plate and see carbs taking up three quarters of the plate, but don’t try anything new. If you don’t eat quinoa normally, don’t start now.

“Three days out, you should also shift to a low-fibre diet,” says Fran Bungay of Goal Specific Coaching. “Change wholemeal to more refined white products (rice and pasta).” Many of you should refrain from consuming spicy foods, too, for obvious reasons.

Ideally your pre-race meal will happen 3hrs before bed to ensure digestion and a good night’s sleep. Yet studies have shown that one bad night’s sleep isn’t detrimental to performance. What is detrimental is a series of bad nights’ sleep, so no phones in bed or caffeine after 1pm!


Hydration’s also key. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 5-7ml of fluid per kg of bodyweight slowly between 2-4rs before racing ‘to promote hydration and allow enough time for excretion of excess water’. For a 60kg person, this is 300-420ml. A simple urine chart (easily found online) will help you with this. Now, we’ll look in more detail and each race distance…

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