Race-Day Nutrition for Sprint and Olympic-Distance Triathlons

From Wake Up #2 to Race Start

You've got a full tank of gas and you filled it up early enough so that everything should be out of your stomach by that 7:25 a.m. wave start. We suggest you eat very lightly. Maybe a sports bar while you drive to the race, drink a bottled sports drink while setting up your transition, maybe pop a gel and slug some water about 30 minutes before your wave. That's all you need.

Sprint Triathlon Nutrition

Armed with your 2-hour gas tank, you don't really need to take in any calories for a sprint. You've got enough fuel to last through the entire race and, more importantly, the fewer calories you take in, the harder you can race. But if you feel you want some calories with you just in case:

  • On your bike: a bottle of sports drink, about 150 calories for the bottle, BUT you'll be lucky to drink maybe half of it during the race...you're riding that hard.
  • On the run: have a gel tucked into the leg of your shorts. Maybe pop the gel coming out of T2, grabbing a cup of water, and sip it for the first half mile as a tool to help you rein in the horses during the first half mile. Or grab a cup of sports drink at the first aid station. The simple fact is that with a 3K run, by the time that gel has a chance to do anything for you...you're likely a mile or less from the finish anyway.

Bottom line is you just don't need to take in any calories, at all, during a sprint and the fewer you take in the harder you can race. If you really want to fuel (just in case), take in no more than 100-200 calories across the whole event.

Olympic-Distance Triathlon Nutrition

Basically the same drill as a sprint, but you might drink the entire bottle of sports drink (~150 calories) on the bike, and maybe take in another 100 calories on the run. The bottom line again is: the less you eat, the less additional stuff you give your body to do, which means you can go harder with reduced risk of nutrition issues such as cramping and side stitches.

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