Fueling for the Body Correctly

Platter of turkey and fruit
December 14, 2016

Mike Ricci


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An athlete races at peak performance by making sure the body is fueled correctly. This is not just about the morning of the start but also approaching race day as well.

Eat softer foods leading up to the race. Eating foods that are high in fiber and protein can make your stomach hurt on race day. Since it takes quite a while for food to move through your system, you should start limiting these items starting about two days out. Look for softer, easier-to-eat foods and snacks instead, such as pasta. Eggs are a great source of protein that are easy to digest as well. A bad idea would be to eat a kale salad and steak the night before race day.

Don’t carb load. When you taper for a race, you are not consuming the calories you were when you were training. Just keep eating like you did while you were training, and that is effectively carb-loading. There is no need to go out of your way to eat even more than that. Eat extra food, and your guts get stuffed with too much work to do, making you feel slow and sluggish on race day.

Get down to your best weight as you train. On your path to getting down to your best race weight, you should be eating logically the closer you get to race week. This is when you should be looking for foods high in fiber, making you feel fuller so you don’t overeat every day. There is plenty of protein in most foods, so you don’t have to go crazy looking for protein all the time. Keep your eye open for the opportunity to eat it, but it’s not the most important thing that your life should revolve around. If you find yourself hungry at the end of the day, consider eating more healthy fats. Avocados and olive oil are full of the stuff and will give you the extra calories your body has been telling you need in a nice and healthy package. Bread and processed starches and sugars should be kept at a respectful distance. These jack up your blood sugar quickly, and then let it drop again, messing with your energy levels. Eating these all the time teaches your body to prefer those for fuel instead of longer-burning and more energy-containing fats.

Never eat processed snacks. Doughnuts, bags of chips, slurpees, candy bars; these are all a bad idea. If it doesn’t grow in nature, don’t eat it. It’s not food.

Feel good with real nutrition. Real, whole foods will make you feel great, and there really is no other way to eat healthily for life. The one thing most people need to do is add in more leafy greens and veggies. Have a salad every day, snack on carrots and cucumber slices, and you can’t go wrong. As race day nears, transition over to lower fiber fruits and veggies like watermelon and potatoes and you are good to go!

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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