Nutrition: a guide to eating on race day

Swimrun races often go on for hours, spanning insane distances both on the trails and in the water. To endure the long and intense hours, swimrunners are required to squeeze as much energy out their body as possible. This is no easy feat. Believe it or not, even the elite athletes can struggle with this and will often have a low point somewhere along the course.

The good news, though, is that with the right nutrition plan, you can help your body get through those tough moments. Here’s my guide to preserving energy to get you over the finish line. 

What to eat the day before a race 

When preparing for race day, it is key to be well-fuelled and hydrated during the morning of the race. Make sure you don’t go hungry the day before, but still eat like you would normally do. You don’t want to have any unusual foods in your stomach that could upset you on race day. 

What you eat depends on your regular day-to-day diet and eating habits. In general, it’s advisable to eat a little more carbs than usual to fill up your glycogen stores. You’ll need all the energy you can get, including your muscle glycogen that will fuel you during the first hour or so. 

When it comes to my own race preparation, I like to eat some fish with rice, and also some beetroot juice as is it supposed to increase your oxygen uptake. 

What do eat during a race

The most important thing here is to have a plan, and to stick to it. In gerenal, you still want to eat easily digestible carbs that go quickly into your blood so your muscles can use the energy right away to keep moving forward. You usually have some options at the energy stations, but I would advise you to bring your own fuel as well. 

There are numerous different gels, bards and other glucose/ fructose concoctions on the market that you can choose from. So, pick a brand, and test it first in training. Just like you train your muscles to run and swim fast, you need to train your stomach to digest well while racing. Train with the food you’ll use on the course.

When it comes to race day, plan out beforehand when you are going to eat and drink something. I usually rely on the energy stations for hydration and take the sports drinks (2 cups) at each one. Look at the course and plan out moments where you need to take energy - especially if it is long between energy stations that the race organisation provides. A good tip is to write out all the distances (swims and runs) on your paddles, and make little marks where you have to take gels.

Another tip is to start with caffeine-free gels for the first half of the race, and then take the ones with caffeine towards the end. The reason for this is again to save your stomach from giving up before the end as caffeine can be tough on it. Also, take an extra caffeine gel for any unforeseen low moments… perhaps you need it, or your partner! Also, remind each other all the time to follow your nutrition plan. When you are in the middle of the course, it is much harder to remember what you told yourself to do before.

I used to be very bad at planning my energy intake for races, thinking that if I'm not hungry I don't need to eat anything. That is not the way to think about it though. An energy plan is preventative, and the key to last the whole race. I think our plan we made at the last World Championships was a key factor to Desirée and I being able to finally win this race. 

What to eat after the race

I am not a nutritionist, so I don't dare give specific advice on this. But my philosophy after a race is to give my body what it wants. Usually that is a beer and some salty food after pushing down all the sports-drink liquid and sweet gels. The most important is that you eat something quite soon after you finish, and try to get in some protein, carbohydrates and vitamins/minerals to give your body building stones to recover and rebuild for your next challenge! 

MAIN IMAGE: Breca Swimrun