Preparing for a long distance triathlon takes a lot of training and discipline. In the last few days before the race and during your period of “typing”, now is the time to think about your pre-race diet and your glycogen overload. Overloading is a short-term dietary regimen with the ultimate goal of maximizing muscle glycogen stores before a long distance event.
Why do a glycogen overload?
Carbohydrates are the most efficient and fastest fuel for exercising muscles. The body is able to store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen in the liver and muscles. Glycogen stores, on the other hand, are limited to around 500g (400g muscle + 100g liver) and provide enough energy for strenuous efforts of around 90 minutes. Glycogen overload and adequate carbohydrate consumption during exercise are therefore important in order to avoid “hitting a wall” during an endurance event.
Overloading: practical advice
It is recommended that you overload your glycogen 2-3 days before your event, aiming for an intake of 7 grams of carbohydrate per kg of body weight. This is about 70-75% of total calories from carbohydrates, 10-15% from protein and 10-15% from fat.
A phase of depletion of glycogen stores before the overload is no longer recommended. This does not necessarily increase the ability to store glycogen and has several disadvantages, including severe fatigue and increased risk of injury, while continuing to train with depleted reserves of our primary “fuel.”
Here are some effective tips to get you started:
- Change the distribution of food on your plate at meals: fill at least ½ of your plate with complex carbohydrates (pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.), ¼ in lean protein (chicken, fish, etc.) and ¼ in vegetables.
- Add carbohydrates without adding bulk: replace the water with maple water, or add a spoonful of maple syrup. Same volume, but more carbohydrates.
- Choose snacks rich in carbohydrates: tender bars, date cookies, rice cakes, fresh or dried fruit, etc.
- Treat yourself (a little!): Simple sugars can be incorporated a little more into your diet during overload. Examples: maple syrup, jam, jujubes, frozen yogurt, etc.
Breakfast on race day
What you choose before the event depends on several factors, including the length and intensity of your triathlon, your start time, and the time between your meal or snack and your event.
To feel good before the competition, we favor foods digested more quickly, but which provide energy for a long time. So opt for a mixture of carbohydrates and a little protein for a prolonged satiety effect and a good maintenance of your energy level.
AVOID: Very fatty, very spicy, or very fibrous foods, as they could cause gastrointestinal symptoms. Ex: fatty, spicy sauces, legumes, cereals very high in fiber (if this is not your habit), etc.
Of course, don’t forget to hydrate yourself until the moment of departure!
For more information on your preparation for triathlon and more examples of high carbohydrate foods and examples of an effective breakfast, get our Triathlon Nutrition Guide!