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Fueling Your Team Properly | Good Food for Race Days

Posted by Kristin Stickels on
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
-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:

Power crunch bars (I like vanilla or chocolate)
2nd surge energy gel (I like the espresso flavor)
Clif shot blocks (black cherry is my favorite)
– coconut water

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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Kristin Stickels is a three-time Team USA member of the US National Dragon Boat Racing Team. She is the coach of the Miami team Puff, the Florida Tarpons women's team and the local Breast Cancer Survivors' Team (SOS).

She is also an avid outrigger canoe paddler and raced through the Panama Canal on a native cayuco boat from the Atlantic to the Pacific.


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