So it might be that time, where you took the plunge, signed up for a race but you’re not entirely sure what you got yourself in for. Or maybe you’ve just finished a race & got your nutrition completely wrong, and you’re still a little bit puzzled as to what happened? So we’ve put together 5 great tips to help you through your next race, whether its a park run, or an ironman, if you stick to these guidelines you should do great.
- Don’t try anything new.On almost every list of tips & tricks for nutrition, this one features very highly. Anywhere you go people will tell you not to try anything new on race day. Why? Not only do you not know how your body will react to any new substances you put into it, your body learns to use the fuel you regularly give it. The body is an incredibly clever machine, things such as food timings & quantity are remembered by the body. This optimizes the way in which your body uses the fuels.
You know exactly how certain foods work and you know your body can survive on them, so it’s not worth ruining the event just to try something you picked up at the expo for free. And you will be tempted, the expo is a field of salespersons trying to sell you the brand new nutrition products and lure you in with freebies. You don’t want to spend the second half of the race exploring the inside of the portaloo, i’d hold out another day or two.
- Simplicity is best.Over the years you’ll learn what your body does and doesn’t respond well to. Everyone is different so the tips & tricks that may work for you won’t work for everyone. One of the best ways to stay healthy & keep your stomach in check is to just stay simple for the week of a race. Making sure you stock up on carbs, protein & your micro-nutrients will help keep your body in top condition.
Avoid the desserts, oily foods & anything you’re not used to. Cook fresh, basic meals that you know sit very well in the stomach. Sometimes this means missing out, but it’s much better to miss a week of ‘nice food’, than miss the race you’ve been training so hard for!
- Consider timing & digestion.There’s no use hammering back a three course meal an hour before your evening race, you know that isn’t going to sit well in the stomach. Think how long it takes your body to store & process foods. A lot of people won’t eat red meat within 48 hours of a race due to extra weight it can add sat in your stomach. Real or whole foods digest much faster than processed foods, as do liquids instead of something too solid. It takes roughly 2 hours to digest a meal, so ideally you want to be finishing just before that.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have a gel 10 minutes before the start to ensure you’re fully topped up, but nothing substantial. This is similar to your hydration in which you want to stop drinking a suitable time before the race & just continue to sip small amounts of fluid to keep you fully hydrated.
- Hydrate & Replace Nutrients.It’s not great secret that exercise requires energy, & energy comes from food & nutrition. Hydration is also a huge part of this & racing requires extra amounts of energy. You’re often pushing your body harder than you’ve ever worked. Whether you need to replace the nutrients or hydrate on the go will depend on the discipline & distance. Generally races up to one hour won’t require this, but above that you’ll need to consider eating or drinking some form of carbohydrates for energy. Electrolytes & salts will also need to be replaced to avoid the cramps setting in.
The amount you need to replenish will depend on your body weight & the intensity at which you’re exercising. Although it will depend on your own preference whether you decide to carry ‘real food’ or a specifically designed sport supplement.
- Post Race – Recovery is Key.This is a completely different article entirely although in terms of nutrition you need to make sure you replenish the nutrients you have just lost, with added protein so that your body & muscles can begin to replenish and repair. It is suggested that you have a 20 minute anabolic window in which to eat. This starts from the moment you finish the race and may be in the form of a supplement. Protein shakes/bars are great in this situation to get you through to your next meal.
Nutrition is always going to be different from person to person, and only time will tell you what works. But if you follow these steps we’re confident that you’ll be able to begin to work out the best solution, without going off track in the process!