What you eat during triathlons can largely impact the way you finish the race. Regardless of how much training you do for the event and how much time and energy you put into getting your body into top shape, you can ultimately fail to complete your triathlon if you do not have enough calories and carbohydrates in your system to give you the energy you need. However, at the same time, you don't want to eat too much before a triathlon and become sluggish during the race. You also need to know the types of food to eat during the actual race to give you the energy you'll need.
Eat Well Before the Race
In order to give your body a nice foundation to start a triathlon, try to take in about 200 to 500 calories about three hours before the race. Whatever you eat should have plenty of complex carbohydrates. This means that you should try to focus on eating a bagel, some pasta, low-fat yogurt or rice in order to make sure that your body has plenty of energy when you begin a triathlon.
Eating Just Before a Race
Obviously, you don't want to eat anything that will impact the swimming portion of the race when you first start. But you do want to take in some additional calories (about 100 or 200 calories to be safe) that include carbohydrates that your body can easily process and break down into energy. Again, this is not the time to eat your entire pre-race meal. Rather, you just want to hold yourself over until you can reload after the swimming leg of the triathlon.
Eating During a Race
Once you hit the bike stage of your triathlon, you need to make sure you reload your body. You can't do this by chowing down on anything fancy, but try and keep some energy gel or some sort of food that includes calories and easy-to-digest carbohydrates. As you race, you will need about 300 calories for every hour of race time. So keep this in mind before the race and try to incorporate this into your training. If you fail to take in these calories, you could literally run out of energy during the running leg of your triathlon and fail to finish.
Eating after a Race
A triathlon can strip your body of up to 5000 calories, so you need to refuel as soon as it is finished. Usually, there will be food and water available at the finish line. But make sure that you take in plenty of foods that contain carbohydrates and protein in order to help your body to recover from the triathlon. Pasta is a good place to start for the carbohydrates and everything from chicken to tuna can help you boost your intake of protein.