January 2016 Nutrition Tips

Nutrition Tips- Race Nutrition

David Bryant - Sports Dietitian

Catalyst Nutrition and Dietetics


You should be well and truly in the thick of training by now with the inaugural Hotel Rottnest Port to Pub swim fast approaching. As training continues to ramp up, it is a great time to start trialling your race day nutrition so that on race day, your body is used to consuming food/fluids whilst swimming.

A wealth of evidence has identified that carbohydrate loading improves performance by 2-3%. Some of you might be thinking this is not much of a benefit but for a 5 hour swim, this equates to a 10 minute improvement.

Look at carbohydrate loading as a security blanket for your race. For example, by not adequately carbohydrate loading, a swimmer could deplete their glycogen stores early on in the race, leading to a dramatic decrease in performance for the remainder of the swim and thus overall time. Furthermore, by adequately carbohydrate loading, less of an emphasis is placed on race day nutrition due to the topped up glycogen stores.

Carbohydrate loading tips:

  • Carbohydrate loading ISN’T fat loading!
  • 2-3 days before the swim, the majority of your meals should be derived from carbohydrates. Think bread/rice/pasta/cereal/starchy veg etc. with a small amount of protein/veg.
  • Don’t overdo the fibre. You have permission to have white bread, cereals, pasta etc. as this will decrease the residual load in your gut and thus the chance of stomach upset on race day.
  • Sugary drinks/foods are ok in the ‘carbo load’ as they don’t have a residual load on the gut and are an easy way to consume additional carbohydrates.
  • Have a dinner plan the night before, stick to your normal pre-race ritual/routine, stick up for yourself and don’t go out for dinner or eat a meal that you haven’t tried pre-race beforehand.
  • NOW is the time to trial a pre-race dinner the night before  and breakfast the morning of an upcoming big swimming session/or lead up race to see if it works well for you during the swim.

Race nutrition is obviously a challenging task given the requirement to consume food/fluid whilst floating. Use your pool sessions as an opportunity to trial consuming food/fluids whilst floating. By this I mean actually forcing yourself to not hold onto the side of the pool, so you mimic the race day scenario in the ocean.

Most importantly, have a race nutrition plan that you have trialled in training eg: gels, solid foods such as muesli bars or lollies, electrolytes and water.

Broadly speaking, for a female, aim for 40-60g of carbohydrate/hour and for a male >60g/hour. This can be done with fluids eg: carbohydrate based drinks and gels, solid or both. Map out this plan for your support crew to, eg: 0:20 minute mark 1x gel, 0:40 minute mark 200ml sports drink etc.

Relax and bring the heart rate down as much as possible pre-ingestion of food/fluid as this will aid digestion.

You might be surprised to hear that your nutrition can assist in preventing hypothermia from occurring as well. The use of hot tea with sugar or a hot Milo/Sustagen will not only supply an additional source of fluid and carbohydrates, it will also warm your core body temperature. Furthermore, keep in mind that your body burns more energy to keep warm as core body temperature drops, another reason to stay on top of your race day nutrition regime and goals.



Jan 22 2016 - 11:15am