Fuelling up properly before a race can make or break your performance on race day, and what you eat afterwards is critical to your recovery too!
Here are some tips that will help you get the best start possible on the day of your event and what to eat after you pass the finish line.
If you are participating in a long run such as a marathon or half marathon, or even if it is a shorter one but the weather is particularly hot, consider packing some electrolytes in your race day bag.
When you sweat you lose sodium and electrolytes and these are crucial in order for your body to function optimally. This will help you avoid dehydration because sometimes water alone just will not make the cut.
This will also play a huge role in preventing cramps, which can be a common issue amongst runners in warm weather.
Know What Suits Your Body
As mentioned above, everyone reacts differently to different foods, and knowing what suits you can go a long way to making your race more enjoyable.
Some people find that foods high in fat and fibre for example can cause them stomach upset when they go on a run so it is well worth experimenting in your training sessions to figure out what foods your body responds best to so that you know what to eat on race day and what to avoid.
PRE | Race Nutrition (Breakfast)
Aim to eat your breakfast on race day a few hours before your event. This not only gives your body time to absorb the nutrition from the meal, but also time for your body to digest it fully so that you don’t end up with any unwelcome stomach pains a few minutes into your race.
Different people have different tolerances to what they can eat and how much before a long run, but a good rule of thumb is to have a meal nice and high in carbohydrates and protein, but go easy on the fibre.
✓ Aim to choose complex carbohydrates which will release energy slowly and keep blood sugars stable so you can perform at your best.
Having a meal too high in fibre combined with the stress of pre race jitters and the actual pressure of the run itself might result in some discomfort!
If your stomach can handle it, consider eating something small and easy to digest an hour before the event, for example, turkey on some wholemeal toast.
INTRA | Race Nutrition
For shorter races this is not going to be necessary for you, but if you are doing a long distance race such as a marathon you will need to think about fuel during the race. You will need carbohydrates and fluid, but will need to be aware that too much of either may cause you some digestive issues.
For mid-race nutrition you need something that will be absorbed quickly by the body, but are not hard on your stomach or take a long time to digest. This is where simple carbs are your friend.
✓ Energy gels are extremely useful as are sports drinks, but you can also use sweets such as wine gums and even a banana if your stomach can handle it. If you do use gels, it is crucial you drink enough fluids alongside them.
✓ It’s incredibly important to not change any nutrition on race day in case of the occurrence of your body refusing it.
POST | Race nutrition
After you pass the finish line, recovery is the name of the game.
To be specific – Replenish (carbs) Rehydrate (fluids) and Repair (protein)
Try to eat a meal that is high in carbs and protein at this time to replenish. For example:
✓ Full meal | Beef steak & White potato
White potato is quickly broken into glucose and stored as glycogen (energy) within the muscles.
Beef steak is great for maximise rates of muscle tissue repair.
✓ Convenient Post-run smoothie
Whey protein/Milk for fast-acting protein synthesis.
Berries to provide your body with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and supply a sufficient amount of glucose and fructose for muscle and liver replenishment.
Take Home Message
What you eat and drink on your race day will have a huge impact on your performance and recovery so it is well worth taking the time to get things right.
Test out different foods in your training sessions in the build up to your race and figure out what works best for you, this way you will perform at your best and can enjoy your race!