Stopping GI Distress-The Pre-Race Meal(s)

My dad is racing the Peasantman tri on Keuka Lake this Sunday, so my mom and I have been discussing what to have for meals in the days leading up to the half ironman. My dad has his nutrition dialed in and is very consistent with his race fuel plan. Still though, I’m helping my mom to tweak other meals in the days leading up to his race. He generally races 5 half ironman a season (Jun-Oct) and so has plenty of practice.

Your meals leading up to your races (I’m speaking of endurance events here), whether they are running or triathlon can make a huge impact on your race day. Cyclists are certainly in the endurance world, but generally don’t have the same types of GI distress as runners/triathletes. Some athletes have iron stomachs, and others very sensitive stomachs. This post is for everyone, but most certainly those who have experienced GI distress on race day.

GI distress can be caused by several things:

  • Too much fiber in the days before
  • Eating too much before your race
  • Eating too close to your race
  • Eating too much during your race
  • Stress
  • Dehydration
  • Taking in too much sugar without plain water (always take a gel with water)
  • Fast intensities
  • Not having practiced your fueling plan before the race or at race pace intensities
  • Your overall diet

*As you can see, there are many factors that can contribute to GI distress, and this isn’t even every possibility.*

When thinking of your race week, you’ll want to work backwards from race day. If you’re race is on Sunday, you’ll want to have a plan for the 2-4 days pre-race. Most athletes don’t need to worry about much more than the day or two before the race, however if you are an athlete that has experienced GI distress, a few more days can be helpful.

So what should you eat in the days prior to the race? The best way to think about this, is to eat the opposite of how you “should” be eating normally. Normally, I would advise you to eat lots of whole grains, high fiber foods, beans, legumes, raw fruit and veggies, etc. I recommend 25-40g of fiber per day. Think the opposite for the days before. You’ll be looking for a low residue diet and less than 10-15g of total fiber per day. The only food I might add to the list is dairy. If you think dairy causes issues, avoid that as well. But up to 2 cups of “smooth” dairy is allowed with a low residue diet.

Low Residue= Low Fiber

Here are some things to look for:

  • White products-white bread, pasta, crackers, bagels, pancakes, rice cakes
  • Cooked fruit and veggies- applesauce, fruit cups (except canned pineapple), potatoes (without skins), beets, carrots, squash, green beans
  • Lower fat foods
  • Lean Protein-avoid deli meats and tough meat

Other foods to avoid:

  • Dried fruit-raisins, dates, figs, prunes
  • Raw fruits and veggies
  • Seeds
  • Caffeine
  • Popcorn
  • Spicy foods

Here are some examples of meals to eat in the days leading up to your race-Think bland:

  1. Pancakes/waffles with an egg and fruit juice
  2. White bagel with jam/honey
  3. White toast with jam, an egg and fruit juice
  4. Low fiber cereal- rice krispies, corn flakes, special k with a banana
  5. Applesauce with protein powder and a banana
  6. Sandwich with turkey, mayo, a fruit cup and chicken soup
  7. Tuna sandwich with mayo, applesauce, crackers
  8. White rice/noodles/ pasta with cooked green beans and  baked chicken
  9. Lean ground beef, turkey, chicken with a baked potato and white bread
  10. Tender meat with white rice, cooked carrots, white bread

Due to cutting your fiber intake, you’ll want to make sure you are upping your intake of water and you will have less bowel movements. It’s important to practice your pre-race meal before race day. So before your pre-race simulation workouts, plan your dinner the night before and then your breakfast the day off. Eat dinner at least 12 hours before you race, and breakfast 3-4 hours before your race. In addition, make sure you are practicing your race day nutrition at the same speeds you will be racing at, this can and will affect your digestion.

If you’d like help with your nutrition for race planning, feel free to drop me a line.




  • By Faith - on

    Cristina I put a note on the computer last night to remember to ask you about pre race diet! Awesome thank you, and speaking of awesome how about your dad! Awesome must run in the blood.

  • By fueledandfocused - on

    Isn’t he amazing! 5 half ironman last year and this year. He’s 3 down and two to go. He took 1st place in his age group and 20th overall today.

    Faith if you have any more specific questions just shoot me an email.

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