There is no need to eat like you're taking on an Iron Distance Event. In terms of food and drink before and during the race, the bare minimum will be fine for most people. As we know though, all athletes are different. While there is no single wonder recipe that will work for all and sundry, there are some general rules of thumb to help guide you to through the nutrition part of a sprint distance tri, especially if you are new to the sport.
- Eat a relatively light breakfast – possibly around two hours in advance of the race start. You can snack on an energy bar if you are feeling slightly peckish inside the last 60-75 mins before race start. Even on a hot day, you will probably only need one 750ml bottle of isotonic drink for the bike session. There is no need to take extra bottles unless you suffer from some chronic condition that requires you to take on excess fluids.
- Two gels to be taken while you're on the bike. Aim to take the first one at around 5km on the bike, with the second one at around 16-18km (just before you get off the bike to start the run)
- Possibly a last drink in the transition area that you can take from your bike bottle before you head off on the run
- In some cases, athletes like to take an additional gel for the run which is then taken at around the midway point (2.5km) but most often, 2 gels would be more than enough for a sprint triathlon distance
So to summarise – a light breakfast a couple of hours before the race, one energy bar as a pre-race snack, 1 x 750ml isotonic drink and 2 gels for the bike.
Keeping it simple and easy. Some athletes might prefer a different method of feeding their bodies which is totally understandable. We are such diverse specimens that a method which might work for one, might not work for the other.
The recipe above is however a good yardstick for the newbie/novice triathlete still getting into the sport and who has still to learn what works for them.