Ensuring that your diet is filled with all the macro and micronutrients that the body requires is an essential part of every person’s diet but especially if you’re active and putting a lot of strain onto your body during training. To ensure that you reach that finish line there is some key information that you need to remember.
When To Consume Carbohydrates
There is one thing that every runner dreads happening and that is ‘hitting the wall’. It is the one stage during your running when you feel like you cannot run any further and that you have hit your limit. No matter how long or how hard you train it isn’t going to stop you from hitting the wall. The reason behind it is simple – you haven’t got enough carbohydrates in your system. Carbs are the most desired form of energy that the body uses during intense training as carbs are stored in the muscle in the form of glycogen. You can avoid this by carb loading before and during a race to prevent your energy stores getting too low. So this means a lot of pasta, rice, potatoes, fruit and vegetables.
The Power Of Protein
This is the key macronutrient that is needed for the rebuilding of muscle mass. This is very important after a race and during your training because without this then your muscles will never get stronger and could break down. Good sources of this are meat, fish, milk and eggs.
Now your diet is key leading up to the race, before the race and during the race. Your body is just like a car – there is no point filling the car up with diesel when it needs petrol every day and then expecting it to run when you want it to.
Race Preparation (Weeks)
Understanding what foods your body can digest properly and which ones make you feel better is important when making yourself a diet plan leading up to your race. The last thing that you want is to be running and feeling that you are bloated or wanting to be sick. Low GI foods such as wholegrain options are great choices this stage in your training because they will build up your glycogen stores and will release your energy slowly. The final week before your big rice is the time to really load up on your carbohydrates.
What To Eat Before A Race
A few hours before any big race or event it is important to try and eat a meal that is high in low GI carbohydrates, moderate protein and low in fast to give your body all the energy that it needs before the big race. Having fruit in your porridge or meat-filled sandwich or bagel with jam are good options.
What To Eat During A Race
It is very important that you replenish your carbohydrate store during runs of 90 minutes or more. Your body has a limit to how much glycogen it can store and after a few hours of running the stores become depleted and you will start to feel very weak. High GI foods are the best options as these are the ones that will fill your energy tank up the quickest. Choosing specially designed sports jells are handy or fruits like a banana, orange or honey, dried fruit or sweets. Fueling up every 45-60 minutes during a long run with about 30-60g carbs per hour will keep you in your prime condition e.g. one large banana, slice bread with honey.
Post Race Nutrition
For up to 30 minutes after a race, your body is at its prime to soak up all the carbohydrates that you can give it and your muscles to soak up as much protein. Having a smoothie with protein inside, chocolate milk or chicken in a sandwich is ideal for refuelling your carb and protein-energy stores. Drinking lots of water before, during and after is key to preventing any dehydration and electrolyte losses.
Overall, diet is important before, during and after a big race! Picture your diet as a pyramid – you need a sturdy foundation (diet before), strong core (diet during) and sharp point (diet after) in order for it to stand strong.