Many of us who get involved in swimming, biking, running, or any combination of the three are doing so to live healthy and/or lose weight. It is for this reason that I usually get skeptical looks when I tell athletes how important carbohydrates are for optimal athletic performance. Carbohydrates are a sadly misunderstood nutrient. Many people believe that carbohydrates are bad or “fattening”. The truth is, they can be (just like anything else can be), but not if you do it right!!
First of all, remember that many healthy foods contain carbohydrates, such as fruit, starchy vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc.). The “carbs” that are not good for us are refined carbohydrate sources, such as white sugars, white flours and low-nutrient-density junk foods.
To keep this blog post brief, know that, for peak performance, your diet leading up to an important race/event (at least one week prior) should contain about 70% carbohydrates. This is hard to determine unless you are using an app such as MyFitnessPal, which will actually give you a pie chart of your protein, carbohydrate & fat intake each day. To make this recommendation more “user friendly”, be sure to include at least one cup total of healthy carbohydrate-containing foods (any combination of fruit, starchy vegetables, whole grains, legumes) at each meal. (Don’t worry, you can have a not-so-healthy “treat” occasionally without guilt.) You can also get a personalized meal plan from a registered dietitian with expertise in athletic performance nutrition.
Carbohydrates are also important for fueling during longer endurance events, but this will be addressed in a future blog post.
Overall, good nutrition on a regular basis is the best way for you to be ready on race day (besides all of your training and mental preparation, of course). If you would like more personalized information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 774-400-7566 to set up a consultation (special rates apply for She Tris participants).
Have fun out there!
Janet Carter, MS, RD, LD, CLS, CPT Registered dietitian, sports nutritionist and endurance athlete