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How to Take Charge of Your Pre-Workout Meal

So, let’s say you’ve already picked out a race from our extensive list, now you have to start working on your nutrition. What you eat and when you eat before an endurance race or workout can have a direct impact on your performance. In fact the pre-competition nutrition for triathletes is so important, many professional athletes will go as far as travelling with their pre-competition meal just in case they can’t find it before the race.


The rule of thumb for nutrition before an important workout or competition is: take in 400-600 calories from primarily carbohydrates and a small amount of protein 2-3 hours prior.

Here are some examples of pre-race meals:

  • Applesauce with some protein powder
  • Sprouted grain (much better absorbed) Bread with some almond butter
  • A healthy (preferably organic) energy bar
  • 1-2 pieces of fresh fruit and a hardboiled egg
  • A gluten-free bagel with Jam

I personally take in 1-2 sweet potatoes covered in sea salt and honey 2 hours before the race. Then 1 hour before my race I take in some branch chain amino acids (BCAA’s) to keep my blood amino acids level high and to enhance recovery. While any of the meals above can provide the same effect, I prefer to take in BCAA’s in supplement form because the protein is already broken down.


Eating before an easier workout is quite different than eating before a race. When eating before a race, the goal is to maximize your glycogen (storage carbohydrate) to provide you with the most energy. However, when performing workouts at lower intensities your body actually uses fat as its primary source of energy instead of carbohydrates. Therefore, you don’t need to “carb load” before going for an easy 90min recovery bike ride for example. In fact I’ve noticed that athletes can perform just fine on higher fat meals such as a coconut milk smoothie or eggs, as long as 2-3 hours is allowed for it to digest.

For athletes, looking to lose some serious weight, short easier workouts done completely fasted can really tap into your body fat stores. Doing fasted workouts not only burns fat, but also teaches your body to use fat as energy. However doing intense and/or long duration (anything longer than 1 hour) workouts can put too much stress on the body and actually burn muscle, so be careful.

Following the recommendations above will provide with the framework for determining your pre-race meal. That being said, whatever you choose to eat before your race or workout, you need to be familiar with it. The biggest mistake you can make is trying something new race morning. Experiment with your workouts and less important races to truly find your ideal pre-race meal. Just remember to keep it simple and not to over think it.

About The Author

Brad Haag is a Triathlon Coach, Personal Trainer, and a National Qualifying Triathlete. As a graduate of Ben Greenfield’s Superhuman Coach program, Brad specializes in coaching endurance and warrior class athletes to peak performance. He can be found at HaagsAthletics.com or as a featured coach at PacificFit.net

About Eric H. Doss

Eric is a triathlete and writer. He has competed in all distances of triathlons, from sprints to full Ironman distance races. He founded FitEgg.com in 2009 to meet the increasing need for professional, unbiased reviews of triathlon gear.

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