October 31, 2023
When Paralympian Susannah Scaroni went to grad school to become a registered dietitian, her daily meals began to change. As she read more about the research behind endurance sports nutrition, she started to eat a lot more carbs. And she quickly noticed a difference in her performance.
Scaroni follows a high-carb diet due to the high intensity and volume of wheelchair racing training. The day before a race, she focuses on race-specific nutrition. She drinks carb-rich fluids, aiming for 80 ounces, including a sports drink like Gatorade. For dinner, she has carbs like rice, potatoes, or pasta, along with lean protein and cooked vegetables. To avoid frequent bathroom trips, she drinks most of her fluids at dinner and has a small glass of water before bed.
On race day, Scaroni starts with a glass of water to rehydrate. Since there may be a few hours between breakfast and the start of the race, she has a bigger meal that includes complex carbs and protein, such as oatmeal and yogurt or peanut butter. She also brings a carbohydrate hydration mix with her on the bus and in the tent before the start. Coffee is a must for her, either using her own AeroPress or getting a red eye from a coffee shop.
Scaroni fills up a CamelBak with 60 grams of carbs from her hydration mix and drinks it through a straw, especially on downhills when she doesn't need to use her hands to push. This strategy is particularly important for para athletes who may have impaired GI functioning due to a spinal cord injury.
Scaroni advises marathoners to stick to their training fueling plan on race day and not try anything new. It's important to practice with the exact foods and brands that will be consumed during the race to avoid gastrointestinal issues. She also recommends practicing the early breakfast or multiple small meals that will be consumed on race day. Finally, she suggests avoiding new foods or drinks, such as free coffee, if they haven't been consumed before during training.