Skip to content

4 Race-Day Fueling Mistakes To Avoid

Race-Day Fueling Mistakes Marisa Michael Run Tri Bike Magainze

It’s race day! You’ve been training for months for this moment. You packed your gear the night before, checked the race schedule for the hundredth time, and set three alarms. You’re so ready for this. You’ve thought of everything. That is, except your fueling and hydration.

In the excitement of race day, it’s easy to overlook a fueling and hydration plan, but not having a strategy can lead to bonking, gastrointestinal issues, dehydration, or even over-hydration!

Here are four race-day fueling mistakes to avoid, making sure you race well and get that finish-line feeling of accomplishment.

Mistake 1: Skipping a Pre-Race Meal

It can be tough to make yourself eat the morning of the race. You may feel you don’t have time to eat, you’re not ready to eat yet, or race-day nerves may suppress your appetite. However, eating a bit before the race is important to help fuel your brain and muscles. Racing while fasted is a recipe for fatigue and slow race times.

Mistake 2: The Wrong Pre-Race Meal

Pre-race isn’t the time to eat a pile of biscuits with sausage and gravy. If you want to feel fueled and energized, you need the right foods that won’t sit like a brick in your stomach. Eating too much fat, fiber, or protein before a race slows digestion. Racing and digesting don’t go well together.

If you have two to four hours before your race time, you can eat a full meal and have enough time to digest it before the race starts. Oatmeal with berries, nuts, and milk, peanut butter toast with a banana, or a smoothie and eggs are all good options.

If you only have about 60 minutes or less before the race starts you want easy-to-digest foods such as a plain white bagel, sports gummies, a handful of pretzels, or a piece of fruit.

Mistake 3: Eating A Sample From The Vendor Expo

It’s fun to wander around all the expo booths, tasting all the sports nutrition samples. Only do this AFTER the race. You’ve trained for months for this event. Don’t mess up a good thing by eating or drinking a new product the morning of the race. You never know how your body will respond. You could have cramping, bloating, diarrhea, upset stomach, or vomiting. Unfamiliar sports nutrition products combined with race-day nerves and intense exercise could spell disaster for your body.

Mistake 4: Not Having A Hydration Plan

Races longer than 60 minutes need a hydration plan, including electrolytes, in order to keep your body safe and working at optimal capacity. Both dehydration and overhydration may lead to medical emergencies. Use the same sports drink products during training that you will use while racing. Aim for around eight to 16 ounces per hour, although some people may need different amounts depending on their individual sweat rates. Work with a sports dietitian if you need help with your fueling and hydration plan.

Avoiding these top 4 race-day fueling mistakes can help you feel great and go hard on race day. Go crush it!

Marisa Michael Real Nutrition Dietitian Run Tri Bike Magazine

Marisa Michael, MSc, RDN, CSSD is a registered dietitian and board certified specialist in sports dietetics. She's a recreational triathlete who's helped thousands of athletes find better health and performance through nutrition. She owns a private practice in Portland, Oregon.