Fueling Your Team Properly: Good Food for Race Days

People are always asking me about what I eat and what kind of food I encourage my teams to eat on race days. So, I thought I’d write a post about it. First off, let me say that I am not a nutritionist. I use information gathered from other reliable sources and make decisions based on how various foods make me feel after I eat them. For example, a bowl of Heath Bar Crunch ice cream (my favorite!) makes me feel tired and weak. A piece of chicken, brown rice, and broccoli makes me feel strong and energized.

On race day, the important thing is to “graze” all day on good food rather than to eat one big mid-day meal. I have seen teams get deliveries to their tent from Chipotle (an awesome burrito chain) and I’ve been jealous because I love Chipotle so much, but the truth is that if I were to eat a burrito on race day, I would feel too full, tired, and lethargic to paddle a serious race. Yes, it is important to stay fueled, but you don’t want to be so full that you can’t be efficient on the water.

Here is a list of what our team typically purchases for race days:

  • water (big jugs of water so paddlers can refill their own reusable water bottles – hydration is super important on race days!)
  • Gatorade powder
  • whole grain bread
  • turkey meat
  • hard boiled eggs
  • peanut butter
  • hummus
  • celery
  • grapes
  • apples
  • clementines/oranges/tangerines/mandarins
  • bananas
  • protein bars (like Power Bars or Clif bars)
  • V-8 juice

Part of a typical race day spread at our team tent. Photo: Aixa Ramos


Oranges are great race day food. Photo: Aixa Ramos


Protein bars are great to eat between races. Photo: Aixa Ramos

I also supplement the food provided by the team by bringing a few of my own favorite foods and supplements that I know work well for me:

Race day is all about keeping your energy level up and monitoring your hunger levels. Don’t let yourself get too hungry because then you are prone to overeating. If you overeat, you will likely want to spend more time napping than paddling. But most of all, you need to find what works for you. For example, veggies, protein and grains work better for me than fruit, as much as I love my fruit. Above all, I would suggest to avoid the heavy meals and sugary treats. As much fun as it is to celebrate someone’s birthday on race day, avoid the cake (at least until after the races are finished). The same applies for alcohol, of course.

Save the celebration food and drink for after the race. Photo: Aixa Ramos

So, use the list above as a guide, find what works for you, and stick with it as much as you can. After the race you can eat a full meal and treat yourself. You raced hard, enjoy it!
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4 Discussion to this post

  1. L. Anthony Scott says:

    Keep them coming, thanks.

  2. Wendy Rose Davison says:

    Oh so true Paddlechica! And the table for food to share is a wonderful idea.

  3. paddlechica says:

    Thanks for the ideas! I’m not sure I’d go with white bread (whole grain bread is so much better nutritionally), but again, it’s really what works best for each person. We definitely appreciate your input!!

    • Vicki Easton says:

      Yeah I was surprised about the white bread too but but I was told brown is too hard to digest on race days – you need something that dissolves quickly especially when you are doing races back to back. Same argument about the power gel shots as well which are not natural or nutritional but give you the fast hit of sugar.

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