Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tri Life: Pre-Race Carb Loading? I Say Non-Sense - Jason Bahamundi

Got great feedback about Jason's first article about living a plant based life. I asked him to share more of his thoughts on food/racing.  I really appreciated the content of this article and tried this method for my OlyTri this past weekend and went great!  However, I might not show this article to my husband as I might still want to pull the "carb-loading" card as he doesn't realize I don't need to carb-load the night before a 5K :)

Pre-Race Carb Loading? I Say Non-Sense - Jason Bahamundi
Pre-Race carb loading has been discussed in such length by plenty of people more qualified than I am to discuss this topic and I have to say that this notion of carb-loading is wrong. I was a believer of the eat all the pasta you can handle the night before a race and while you are at it down the entire loaf of bread too. Oh, in the morning just keep on eating but I have discovered through trial and error and thanks to my coaches that this theory is upside down. Your body can only hold but so much and then it becomes wasted and can just sit around and possibly cause GI distress or bloatedness and a feeling of exhaustion.

When I started training for my second Ironman in 2012 I began to read more and more about fueling your body for the 140.6 miles. I had just completed Ironman Texas and finished in 11:59 and was feeling good about that accomplishment but I knew I had more in me and I wanted to find any edge I could to get me to go faster. Of course, hard work was going to be the key factor in my ability to cross the finish line faster but what else was there? Nutrition is a passion of mine so I began reading more and more about this and came across an article by Maria Simone on her blog Running A Life. This article changed my view of the concept of carb-loading.

Maria’s husband, John, had qualified for Kona at Ironman Cozumel and he detailed some of his nutrition plans heading into the race. One of the concepts he discussed was pre-race fueling. I took to his advice like a moth to a flame. I absorbed it all and then put it into action. The first race I did this with was Rev3 Maine. This race was in August and Ironman Arizona was a few months away so this was going to be a great test of how this carb loading or really non-carb loading plan was going to go.

The plan consists of a carb based dinner TWO nights before the race. The following morning you have a carb based breakfast and then you taper your carbs throughout the day to the point of going to bed feeling ALMOST hungry. For example, if you are racing on a Sunday then your big dinner is on Friday night. Your big breakfast is Saturday morning and then you taper the rest of the day and reverse your carbs and protein but also always making sure to get in healthy fats.

Two nights before Rev3 Maine we went out to eat and I ordered three meals. I had a salad, a vegetarian pizza and some falafel wraps as you can see in this picture. I enjoyed every last bite. The next morning after a shakeout ride and run I went to breakfast. I had pancakes, toast, eggs, oatmeal and coffee. What I also had was lots and lots of water. Throughout the rest of the day I ate less and less and went to bed feeling good. My stomach wasn’t bloated and I was ready to race. The next morning I woke up and had a couple of rice cakes with peanut butter and jelly and sliced banana along with coffee and water. I got to the race sight feeling very strong and fully expected a great day of racing. My swim was strong but on the bike I had issues. There were problems with my wheels as a spoke broke that set me back, but once on the run I put in the fastest time I have ever run 13.1 miles in a 70.3 race. This meal consumption plan seemed to be working.

As I continued to race I continued to follow this idea of the carb lessening plan as race day drew closer. That is not to say that I didn’t eat carbs because I did I just structured my consumption of them differently than in the past. At 70.3 San Juan I had a terrific race in the lead up to Ironman Texas 2013.

Ironman Texas turned out to be one of the hardest races I have ever participated in. The swim was brutal but the bike and run turned into confidence boosters for me. I rode to my fastest time at an Ironman race on the bike finishing the 112 miles in less than 6 hours and while the run was not a PR (off by :38 seconds) I did turn in the 15th fastest (out of 400+) M40-44 on that day. The weather at IMTX 2013 was like racing in a lava field on the surface of the sun but my body was well fueled for the race and thus the ability to put in a marathon time that was as fast as it was in comparison to the competition.

When I read, see or hear about athletes carb-loading the night before the race and then read their race reports to find out that they had GI issues it does not surprise me. The body can only handle so much food and the stress of an endurance event takes it toll on our bodies in more ways than one. If your GI is filled with food that was not able to be processed it is going to cause these issues.

When you are training hours and hours on end for days, weeks and months the simple act of throwing all of that away so that you can eat a piled high plate of pasta does not make much sense. You have the moment you cross the finish line to stuff your face with chocolate cake and anything else you can get your hands on so don’t throw all your hard work away for one meal prior to race day.

Jason Bahamundi is a 3x Ironman who writes about the sport of triathlon while living a plant-based lifestyle on the blog Cook Train Eat Race. You can also find his musings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.


  1. Great tips! I couldn't agree more. I did the same (eating a little more a few days before) and then just had a basic balanced meal the night before my 70.3. Also for breakfast it seemed small, just a cup of oatmeal and a banana but I never experienced any GI issues nor did I ever feel hungry during the race. Thanks for this post.

  2. Tank you commenting Amanda. If you read race reports from the pros their breakfast on race day is typically what you had in coffee and oatmeal. Obviously this works but only if you are smart in the days leading up t the race. It is no different than training and being prepared for the event is dependent on your training lea