It’s Not Just Pasta…..

Pasta is not the only item you can eat to help top off those glycogen levels before a race.  As a matter of fact I can’t recall the last time I had pasta as my meal before a race.  On top of that in the past year and a half I have not had the night before carb mea and have moved that meal to two nights before the race.  The reason I am bringing this up is that a few days ago Nicole of NEO Endurance Sports tagged this article to my Facebook wall.  The article showcases what 8 professional triathletes eat the night before a race and none of them are pasta.  I am going to rank the meals from top to bottom in terms of those that I would enjoy the most.  After that I will discuss my eating habits on race weekend and where they came from.


Photos by Sue Fan & John Becker.

Ben Hoffman – 2012 Ironman St. George winner

  • Scrambled eggs, waffles, fruit, yogurt

Sarah Gr0ff – 2012 Olympian

  • Cheese-less pizza

T.J. Tollakson – 2011 Ironman Lake Placid winner

  • Steak, sweet potato, rice and lots of carrot cake (obviously I would replace the steak but you can’t go wrong with carrot cake can you?)
Heather Jackson – 2012 Ironman Wildflower Long Course Champion
Meredith Kessler – 2012 Ironman St. George and Ironman Coeur d’Alene winner
  • Salad, steak or chicken and sweet potato (again replace the meat but sweet potatoes are a staple in my diet.)
Fraser Kartmell – 2010 Ironman UK winner
Mirinda Carfrae – 2010 Ironman world champion
  • Chicken and rice (add tomato for Mirinda)

Rasmus Henning – 2012 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon winner

  • Fish, bread and rice
For any meal that is on this list that contains meat I would substitute something like tofu or tempeh for it.  You could also substitute in a Portobello mushroom as well.
Now onto when I eat my meals.  I learned from this person and this person of No Limits Endurance how to time my meals and since I have gone to their method I have had great races and I believe that this method of consuming calories has played a big part.  Never mind the fact that I have had terrific races since starting this but keep in mind that John has qualified for Kona and Maria just knocked off 1 hour from her previous 140.6 PR.  Yeah, I would say that this works pretty well.
Here is my menu of eats from Maine last weekend and you will see that there is a method to the madness of calorie consumption and the whole time there is no pasta.
  • cooktraineatrace_preracedinner_rev3maine

    Falafel Pita, Grek Salad, Greek Cheese-less Pizza

    Friday Night (this is my carb loading night): Cheese-less Greek Pizza on Whole Wheat Crust (tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, red onions), Falafel Pita, Greek Salad with no dressing (cucumbers and tomatoes), water and lots of it

  • Saturday Morning (between 8am and 10am): 1 waffle with real maple syrup, 2 chocolate chip pancakes with peanut butter, 1 scrambled egg, 2 slices of dry rye toast with peanut butter, water and lots of it
  • Saturday Evening (4pm): Bowl of granola with 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 banana (sliced), 2 strawberries (sliced)
  • Saturday Night (8pm): Herbalife 24 Rebuild Endurance Strength shake, 3 Lundberg Farms rice cakes topped with sliced banana and 1 Tbsp honey
  • Sunday morning (race morning): Herbalife 24 Formula 1 shake with banana, bowl of granola with sliced strawberries and 1 cup coconut milk, 1 cup coffee or green tea
  • 1 hour prior to race start: Water with 100 calories of EFS Liquid Shot

By eating this way my body has the opportunity to digest all of the nutrients and remove those that are not needed.  I have found that my body feels primed and ready to race come the start and better yet is that I don’t feel bloated when I start pouring the calories into my system during the bike ride.  For me it is all about timing so that I feel great, not good, when I start my nutrition/hydration plan on the bike and follow through to the run.

This process has taken a lot of practice to get right and I suggest that you do the same.  It is all about trial and error until you find what works for you.  I have been fortunate to find that this has worked extremely well and is not a process I plan on breaking anytime soon.

How Do You Fuel Before A Race?

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  1. Nice post and I agree! I can’t believe folks are still stuck carbo loading the night before the race! Their poor guts, so full! I follow a similar plan as you. We eat heavier on Friday night, heavier brunch Saturday and then taper the food out a bit as the night goes on. Race morning we have our banana bread oats, a banana for pre-race and maybe if I can get it down a gel right before the start. And lots of water! We started making our own energy gel that’s AMAAAAAZING and our own energy bars for on the bike. Those have been powering us righteously through 100 mi rides + long runs so we’re definitely making them a constant part of our race routine.
    Rose @ Eternal Recess recently posted..12 Weeks Till IMAZMy Profile

    • CTER says:

      The funniest thing Rose is the concept of carb-loading in general. If you are truly paying attention to what you eat as an endurance athlete then ‘topping’ off is all you really need and not this mysterious LOADING.
      CTER recently posted..It’s Not Just Pasta…..My Profile

  2. Maria Simone says:

    Thank for the shout out – and more importantly, I’m glad that the pre-race eating protocol works for you. We love it too!
    Maria Simone recently posted..Ironman Mont Tremblant: The CourseMy Profile

    • CTER says:

      Oh, it is awesome. I feel like a King eating so much on Friday night and Saturday morning that come the evening/night I am still satisfied and don’t even want to or need to eat much the rest of the time leading up to race day and the gun going off.
      CTER recently posted..It’s Not Just Pasta…..My Profile

  3. Thanks so much for this article. It is extremely interesting to me to see how carbo loading has evolved over the years.

    I ran my first marathon in 1977 and carbo loading was the big thing.

    There was also a carbohydrate depletion diet that was also a big fad for a while.

    If your marathon was on a Sunday, the Sunday before you did a two-hour run to deplete your glycogen stores and for the rest of Sunday, Mon, Tue, and Wed. all you ate was protein. By late Wednesday it was impossible to even run because there was nothing in the tank.

    On Thursday you started to load up on Carbs and you could feel your strength coming back within hours. The loading was done until Saturday, the eve of the race.

    The whole idea was to get your body used to the depletion stage that you would encounter late in your marathon.

    All in all as I look back at it, it really was a dangerous diet and fad and eventually died out and I would never recommend it to anyone.

    I was also in Ironman Hawaii 1984 and there were sightings around town of Dave Scott eating his way through huge plates of salads and pastas at various restaurants in the days before the race(that he won….again).

    Many people believe that it was his understanding of a proper endurance athletes diet that was a major reason for his success.

    He has way ahead of his time in that department when most of us age-group Ironmen were struggling to figure out what to eat before, during, and after the race.

    It is very interesting to see what some of the best pro triathletes in the world are eating for pre-race fuel.

    The Kenyans are also remarkable endurance athletes and their diet is so simplistic and they never use vitamins or energy drinks.

    On my website I wrote an article titled “Eat like a Kenan to Run Like a Kenyan. ”

    Interesting how they use tea, whole-fat milk, and lots of sugar as one of their carbo-loading choices after a morning run to quickly replace glycogen for the afternoon run.

    Ugal(made from cornmeal)i, eggs, pasta, rice, and bread are also on top of their list as carbohydrate foods.

    Thanks again for your very insightful article!!

    IronStruck Ray

    • CTER says:

      Ray –

      Thank you for stopping by. The beauty, to me, is that it is ever evolving. We are learning more and more everyday and that is fascinating.

      This training cycle I have moved my diet around so that I am consuming ~50% of my carbs before 9:30am. The reason for this is that I train in the morning so getting some fuel in before and then recovering properly is done on an even and consistent basis and when my body needs it.

      I will take a peek at your site and want to say Thank You for stopping by and commenting. It is truly appreciated.

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