I'll be doing a triathlon next Sunday with the beginning of the race at 8:00 am. I'm going there as an amateur, but I've always been a competitive guy so I'll do my best to perform well.

I've been training over the past two weeks and feel fit but haven't considered the importance of the nutrition aspect at all. Furthermore, due to work schedules I haven't been able to train at the same time as the race will be.

Especially, I'm concerned with the breakfast of the morning race. My plan is to wake up at 5 am and have breakfast immediately after with:

  • hot tea
  • 2 slices of toasted bread and jam
  • small cup of fruit salad

I have a series of questions:

  • Waking 3 hours before the race is enough to digest what kind of breakfast?
  • Will my suggestion be too little or too much?
  • What is the caloric intake of the indicated breakfast and what are the best options for a race day?
  • Should I add remove something?
  • You need energy for the race. I think you should eat heavier. Apr 7, 2014 at 21:06
  • @Kneel-Before-ZOD - can you suggest what I could add? Maybe some yogurt, or else? Thanks for your advice
    – Matteo
    Apr 8, 2014 at 1:18
  • Ditch the tea and bread. Yogurt is protein, which you don't really need. You need carbohydrate-enriched food. Not too heavy but certainly heavier than your current option. Also, eat a banana right before the race starts. Get some energy bars and stay hydrated. Apr 8, 2014 at 1:47
  • I'd vote for eating a bowl of oatmeal. There is decent protein there, and it takes oatmeal longer to process than the fruit salad and jam (I'd think the sugars from those would be burned off before you started the run).
    – jp2code
    Apr 9, 2014 at 15:05

5 Answers 5


The ideal scenario is to test your breakfast during training, as the last thing you need is to eat something that upsets your stomach.

I'm not a triathlete, but have run several marathons. For me porridge with honey worked well, with a banana nearer the start time. Personally I wouldn't have the fruit salad, but everyone is different. If you have tried carbohydrate drinks prior to training, I'd also sip that prior to the race, but trying something new on race day, is not a good idea.

Good luck with your race

  • Thanks for your advice. Do you have an idea of the amount of calories that a breakfast like the one i posted would contain? And what is a recommended calories range for a race day?
    – Matteo
    Apr 7, 2014 at 22:06
  • At a glance I'm not sure. I can look it up, but it won't be enough calories. If having toast 2-3 slices. Also, make sure you have carbohydrates the day before at the very least. Make sure you are hydrated too Apr 7, 2014 at 23:10

Similar to the answers above - you should not experiment on the morning of your triathlon. Practice in the week leading as to what your stomach can handle with foods that are predominantly carbohydrates based.

Have a look at some of the links below that support the answers mentioned (they aren't all triathlon specific but give a good indication of pre-race nutrition)


Performing a triathlon (running, biking, and swimming) requires skill, endurance, and lots of energy. Hopefully, you've honed your skill and endurance with your training. However, to actually complete your race, you need lots of energy. That's carbohydrate and fat. Forget about the caloric intake for that day; you should burn everything during the race. Your EPOC should burn the rest.

First, you want to ensure that your breakfast is something your stomach is used to. The last thing you want to focus on is your tummy disagreeing with you (or cramping).

Second, as I mentioned in the comments, you need lots of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates will provide you the energy you need. At the same time, you don't want to eat too heavy (remember you'll be swimming too). You have a few days before the race; experiment with portions to determine the optimal portion you'll need.

Third, ditch the hot tea. Your body's going to be hot during the race; there's no reason for a hot tea. Some people might take coffee (caffeine for the alertness); others take orange juice or blend some juice. Take anything that's keep you hydrated without filling you up.

Fourth, race day isn't one for a fruit salad; rather blend the fruits into a juice for the nutrients.

Fifth, increase the number of slices if you need to eat bread. But I would rather ditch those for something else with more carbs and fat. Depending on your location, this shouldn't be hard. Again, ensure that the food will sit well with your tummy and the portion isn't too much.

Sixth, get energy bars and banana handy. The banana is for the start of the race; the energy bars are for when you feel your energy depleting (although I'm not completely sure how you'll hold onto them during the race).

Seventh, stay hydrated. That doesn't need any explanation :).

Eating 3 or 4 hours before the race isn't bad; again, ensure this agrees with your tummy. Don't eat too close to the race (except the banana).

You'll do fine. Let us know how it went.

  • -1. If the OP isn't used to coffee, there can be a performance benefit, but there is also the possibility of an adverse reaction. Also, you're recommending several nutrition strategies that may or may not work, and have a good likelihood of causing the upset you are trying to avoid. About the only advice that is worth anything in this instance is "Get in a practice workout or two simulating your race day" and see what they can tolerate.
    – JohnP
    Apr 8, 2014 at 15:19
  • @JohnP No, I didn't recommend coffee. I only mentioned it that some people take it because of the alertness. There's no reason to take tea though. If he gets into a practice workout simulating the race day, I won't be surprised if he took more than one of the suggestions. He'll likely stay hydrated as well as get carb-based meals. Everything else is just a repetition of those. Apr 8, 2014 at 16:19
  • Thanks for your advice, as said, I'll put a bit of everything in practice and let you guys know!
    – Matteo
    Apr 9, 2014 at 16:15

I can say one thing: DONT Experiment !!!

You didn't mention lenght, I will assume a sprint (750m/20/5)

The race (if it's your first) is hard enough. Training for it, should have made you used to some kind of energy usage.

The ideal should NOT be on day race, it's happening few days before

  • Drinking a lot of fluids on the 3-4 days before the race
  • Eating on the night before - mostly easy to digest carbs - Pasta - no souce, no cheese, no meet. NO Salad - vegs take long time to digest - you need to get easy on the stomach.
  • On morning race 1-2 slices of bread with Jam/other-sugar or 1 banana should be enough

As for the fruit salad - it's a lot about quantities. If you take 1/2 a cup - it can suffice and replace the banana.

Enjoy and have fun !!!!

  • Thanks for your advice, I'm putting this in practice and will let you know!
    – Matteo
    Apr 9, 2014 at 16:15

There are several types of triathlons, and as you state

I've been training over the past two weeks and feel fit...

I have to assume that it is not one of the longer triathlons, but more like a sprint and thus something you can finish in less than 1 1/2 hour (correct me if I am wrong here :-)).

As described in this answer - What to do before a 5k? Race day advice - I would just avoid spicy and greasy food the day before and have some very light breakfast when you wake up on race day... So in my view, you plan is fine (maybe I would wait until 6 am, if the starting point isn't too far away).

If I'm wrong about the triathlon, then it is far too late to make any sort of changes. As noted by others, the race day procedures should all be well-known and well-tested before any longer race. There are absolutely no room for experiments! All your energy should go into the race itself and not into the support for the race like gear and food.


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