I'm often asked the question, so here's a look at what I eat & drink before a race. Whether it's a Ironman, 70.3 (half Ironman) or Olympic, my routine is always the same.
While I've had success with this, that doesn't necessarily mean it's best for everyone. I'd strongly recommend that you try this before a big session as opposed to trying it for the first time on race day. Hopefully it works out and you can make this your race morning go-to routine.
To make this easy, let's say the race start is 7AM. As you'll see, the timing of when you eat & drink this stuff is really important.
4:00 AM - WAKE-UP
4:05 AM - APPLE SAUCE + BANANA
I'm never hungry on race morning. Combo of nervous energy and having to eat so close to when I wake up. So, this ends up being a bit of a force-feeding exercise.
- Organic Apple Sauce, 23oz Jar (no sugar added; no HFCS)
- Banana, full regular size
I like to eat 3 hours prior to race start. I've found that this allows me to get the calories necessary while also having a "clean system" by race start. As anyone who's raced a half or full Ironman knows, that's key.
This combo provides great mix of relatively low-glycemic carbs that are still easy on the stomach. There's also a good bit of potassium in both apples and bananas. Potassium helps balance the fluids and electrolyte levels in your body, which in turn helps to regulate your heartbeat and prevent muscles from cramping. (More on that here.)
4:10 AM - PRE-RACE POTION (Vega Energizer + Nuun + Maca Powder)
I drink version of this every morning when training as a way to wake up and get hydrated. I slowly drink it over the course of 20-30 minutes since 32oz is a lot of fluid.
In addition to the energy, this concoction also helps with the "clean system". I'll leave it at that.
I go with:
- 24 oz of water (depending on thirst)
- 1 scoop, Vega Sugar-Free Energizer Acai Berry
- 1 teaspoon, Organic Maca Powder
- 1/2 tablet, Nuun Active Fruit Punch
I like the Vega Energizer because it's an awesome mix of herbs and roots that up energy levels. These being yerba mate, green tea, rhodiola, ginseng, devil's claw and others.
I like maca powder because of it's been shown to increase energy and stamina among other things. (Studies are still limited but this one shows promise on benefits on endurance athletes. Bigger sample size & longer time-frame would be nice.) It's also high in iron.
I add the Nuun Active in there to make sure I'm covered on the electrolyte front.
4:30 AM - COFFEE
In the land of endurance sports, caffeine is king.
I'm a big coffee drinker and make no exceptions on race morning. Because I'm particular about it, I bring a travel French Press (highly recommend this one) along with my own ground beans. Yes, I'm that guy.
Coffee and caffeine is one hell of a tool in getting the most out of yourself on race day (and in training). Many studies have shown this. In this one looking at the impact of caffeine on endurance athletes, caffeine took an average of 3% off of athletes’ finish times. In some cases, the effect was as large as 17%.
5:30 AM - IRON SUPPLEMENT
I occasionally supplement with plant-based iron, especially on race day. (Plant-based iron, AKA non-heme, is best even for the non-vegans out there since our bodies are able to properly regulate iron levels when the iron is from plants. When it's from meat/animal blood, our bodies can't regulate it and we're at risk of too much iron. More on that here.) Anyway, iron is crucial in the transport of oxygen to the body's cells and tissues -- super important when blitzing a race -- so you want to make sure you're at the right levels.
- My brand of choice is Floradix. While I prefer the Floradix Liquid when at home, I typically just bring the Floradix Tablets when I race.
Caffeine interferes with the body's absorption of iron, so I try to give a slight buffer between my coffee + Vega drinking and taking the iron. (Plenty of research and articles on this, but here's a study that shows why it's better to first have coffee/tea, then have the iron 1 hour later.)
5:30 AM - SNAKE OILS
While I say snake oils, I say that jokingly since there is research backing the benefits of these roots, mushrooms and minerals. That said, I recognize that all are pretty weird and come across as elixirs in a traveling medicine show.
Given the research, I'll take these before a race and prior to a really hard training session but that's about it. Each is a bit too expensive for regular use. It's also hard for me to definitively say that I notice a boost from them. (Though I am definitely less sore after a hard workout and after a race when taking Extreme Endurance.)
- BeetElite Beet Root Powder
- Beet root juice has been shown to improve endurance capabilities. (Studies highlighted here by NutritionFacts.org)
- Four Sigmatic Cordycep Mushrooms
- Cordyceps have been shown to enhance endurance and resistance to fatigue. (Studies outlined here.)
- Xendurance Extreme Endurance
- The combination of calcium carbonate, magnesium oxide, and other active ingredients help buffer lactic acid. (The clinical studies they've done; paid for by Xendurance but still seem legit.)
6:00 AM - EASY-TO-DIGEST BAR
I want to stay relatively topped off with calories/carbs without putting anything too heavy in my stomach. I typically go with a Taos Mountain Energy Almond Agave bar. (Full disclosure, I'm sponsored by TME. But their bars are killer nonetheless!) I find these to be really easy on my stomach.
7:00 AM - SHOWTIME!!
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