Triathlon - Race Day Nutrition Tips

Important race day hydration and nutrition tips from Coach Mari Fridenmaker's excellent series on Triathlon Nutrition!

Part III - Race Day

NOTES: These hydration and nutrition tips apply to an Olympic distance triathlon, lasting 2 hours, 30 minutes to 3 hours, 30 minutes. Keep in mind that everyone has different preferences. It will take time to figure out what works for you. Use your training days to test your nutrition. Don’t try any new nutrition products on race day.

Pre-Race Dinner (Night Before)

  • Plan to eat a similar dinner that has worked for you in the past the night before a long workout.
  • There is no need to eat a larger meal than normal.
  • Try to eat earlier than normal in order to make sure everything digests as much as possible.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Continue hydrating after your meal.

Race Morning (Breakfast) 

  • Eat something and start hydrating as soon as you get up.
  • Plan to drink 18 – 22 fluid ounces of something with water and electrolytes from the time you get up until the time the race starts. Drink more if it is going to be hot and humid. Remember, even if you are as little as 2% dehydrated, it will negatively affect your performance.
  • Your breakfast should consist of something you are used to having the morning before a long workout.

Race Morning (At Race Venue, Before Race Start)

  • Continue hydrating when you arrive at the race venue.
  • Plan to have a snack approximately one hour before the start of the race.  

Racing Hydration & Nutrition

  • Plan your hydration and nutrition by the hour.
  • Since you typically can’t take nutrition in during the swim, plan to start consuming your nutrition on the bike.
  • Have two bottles of sports drink* on your bike, especially if your bike ride will last longer than one hour.  
  • Plan to drink one bottle per hour during the bike. Continue drinking from the second bottle after the first hour.
  • If you are eating solid food on the bike, plan to eat that at the start of the bike leg.
  • Nutrition in the form of liquid is easiest for the run, rather than solid nutrition.
  • Consider carrying a hand-held fluid bottle during the run. This ensures you have the nutrition you are used to in your training. Also, you can refill your bottle at the aid stations, if necessary.
  • If you decide to use the nutrition on the race course, find out ahead of time what they are serving and where the aid stations are located.
  • Continue taking in nutrition for the entire run. If you reach a point in which you can no longer tolerate sports drink, at least take in water.
  • Keeping up with your nutrition throughout the race is the best way to avoid running out of energy on the run. This is also known as “bonking” and “hitting the wall”.

*Sports drink refers to anything with water mixed with carbohydrates and electrolytes.  

Post-Race Hydration & Nutrition:

  • Remember, you will not be able to replenish the calories you burn during your race. This is why recovery nutrition is so important.
  • Always have a recovery snack** as soon as possible after a race. 
  • Your recovery snack should consist of something with carbohydrates and protein.
  • Don’t rely on what is provided at the race. Pack a cooler with a recovery snack so you can eat it when the race is over. You can even ask a friend, loved one or coach to have it ready for you at the finish.
  • The sooner you can take in recovery nutrition, the better you will feel in subsequent days.
  • Be sure to continue rehydrating throughout the day and the next day. It can take 24 – 48 hours to fully rehydrate after a race.
  • **Recovery snack refers to anything with carbohydrates and protein.

Race Day Hydration & Nutrition Timeline Sample (Coach Mari’s HITS Naples Olympic Distance Plan):



Hydration & Nutrition



Coffee, Water & Banana



¾ Cup Plain Non-Fat Greek Yogurt, ¾ Cup Fresh Strawberries, Slice of White Bread with Natural Peanut Butter & Jelly



22 oz Bottle of Water and EmergenC

Leave for Race Venue



Arrive at Race Venue, Set Up Transition, Warm-Up Run, Go to Swim to View Buoy Set-Up, Chillax


2 Slices of White Bread and Jelly



Leave Fluid Bottle in Transition Bag

Short “Get Wet” Swim



Race Meeting



Race Start


Start Drinking First Fluid Bottle

Bike Leg


Start Drinking Second Fluid Bottle

Bike Course


Start Drinking 20 oz. Hand-Held Fluid Bottle

Run Course


Water from Course

Run Course


Finish Majority of Hand-held Fluid Bottle

Finish Race


Recovery Nutrition: 2 Slices of White Bread, Natural Peanut Butter and Jelly, Banana, Sparkling Water (No Calories)

Recovery/Awards Ceremony


Another Sparkling Water (No Calories)

Drive Back to Hotel


Another Sparkling Water



Edamame Salad, Homemade Granola Bar and Sparkling Water


Remainder of Day

Sparkling Water, Healthy Snacks and Dinner


Mari Fridenmaker

Mari Fridenmaker is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach in Atlanta, Georgia.  She is the President and Head Coach of Blue Iron Coaching, LLC.  She has been active in the sport of triathlon since 2003 and has been coaching athletes of all levels since 2007.  Her services include Team Coaching, Personalized Coaching, Private Swim Lessons and Individual Consultation.  For more information, please visit her website,  She can be reached at or 404.667.0817. 

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