How to Reduce GI Distress on Race Day

Q: I read a few days ago that when you were knocking out the wins in Kona, you followed a strict vegetarian diet. I've been a strict vegan for a little over two years now, and have been competing in iron distance races for about a year, but still have GI distress in the run, even though I've done all I can to train my GI tract to handle it in my training.

More: How to Create Your Ironman Nutrition Plan

Did you have the same issues when you were racing the big island as a vegetarian? If so, how did you overcome them and not let them completely sabotage your race?

A: During my career there were several years that I won the Ironman race primarily on a Lacto-ovo diet. Regarding GI distress and a strict vegan diet, this eliminates eggs and dairy. Some people are more susceptible to GI distress with the inclusion of dairy in their diet--this is not your case. So what are your issues?

Eating a vegan diet has a high fiber intake which is really unavoidable due to your caloric demands of training. To offset this issue and to make sure that your GI tract is cleaned out before the gun goes off, try this: On race day you should be finishing breakfast 2 1/2 hours before your race start time. If the race starts at 6:30 a.m., you should finish breakfast by 4 a.m.

More: Top 5 Race-day Nutritional Tips

To prepare your GI tract for this early breakfast, both the night before and two days before the race, allow a 10 hour transit time between dinner and breakfast. In other words, be done with dinner by 6 p.m. on both nights. Even though you may not be getting up in the middle of the night two days prior to the race, this will allow your dinner to properly digest and eliminate early the next morning.

More Tips to Reduce GI Distress on Race Day

  • Try to reduce your legume and bean intake the day before the race.
  • Race morning, do not eat granola or a large amount of nuts.
  • If you normally drink caffeinated tea or coffee, drink your normal amount, nothing in excess.
  • Do not drink extra fluid replacement drink the day before the race. Your body will retain the necessary electrolytes from your normal daily diet and a reduction in your training.
  • Do not add extra scoops to your fluid replacement drink on race day. Maintain the recommended concentration.
  • Do not drink anything for the first 10-20 minutes on the bike. Your first hour intake should be 20-25 percent less calories than each hour following.

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