One of the major issue during races is problems with nutrition. Runners often forget to use their training sessions for race nutrition, or make common mistakes before, during or after races.
Common nutrition mistakes on race day:
Changing your diet before a race- To make drastic changes in daily diet shortly before a race can cause severe issues. Even though you are making healthy changes, your body needs time to adjust to different food sources. Making big changes like switching to a more vegan or Paleo diet can have some negative impact on energy levels, stomach issues etc.. Shortly before a race, stick to your usual diet.
Train for your pre-race meal- Part of your training plan should be a pre-race meal, before every long training runs, try to find the perfect meal for before the race; one that will be easy to digest, with more simple foods, low in fat and fiber, some protein and more simple carbs. Training your body to consume a pre-race meal will lower the risks of GI (gastrointestinal) issues.
Avoid carb-loading the night before- Focusing a well-balanced daily diet with eating carbs more consistently the week before the race will avoid your body storing all those extra carbs and calories as fat. Eating the normal amount of carbs the night before will avoid bloating and stomach discomfort. The night before a race, it is highly recommended to have a lighter dinner, focus more on the breakfast and lunch pre-race day.
Focus on hydration- Often times, runners forget about paying attention to hydration the week before a race. Sometimes busy lives take over and we don’t focus on our diet and hydration. During the race, especially for long-distance races, runners must have a timetable for hydration as well as nutrition, and make sure they get enough electrolytes. Heat and altitude can make a huge difference in dehydration.
Race-day nutrition- Just like hydration, runners need to set up a fueling timetable during the race, again that should be part of the training plan, to find the proper fueling snacks and timing. Plan ahead and pack your ideal snacks in your drop bag or give to your supporting team. Also, always carry back up fuel in your race pack in case you get lost or something happens unexpectedly.
Don’t eat new foods on race day- Before the race check who the sponsors are and what food options will be at the checkpoints. You don’t want to get to a CP and grab some unfamiliar foods that your body might not be happy with.
Don’t eat too much fibre on race day- Eating too much fibre can cause your stomach to feel very full and heavy, to many bathroom stops. Even a few days before the race, make sure you slightly lower you fibre intake to ease up your digestive system.
Don’t eat high-fat meals the night before a race- Some runners can handle having pizza the night before a race, but for most people eating high-fat and heavier meals (fried foods, pizza, beef) will make you feel bloated, full and heavy the next morning. It is more sensible to have a light dinner the night before the race and if you feel a bit hungry later at night you can have a light snack with some protein.
Don’t eat too much at the checkpoints- If you haven’t set up a nutrition schedule, you will find yourself starving when you get to the CP’s, causing you to eat too much at once which will cause bloating, feeling sluggish as our body can only process a certain amount of nutrients at once, the rest gets turned into fat. So, plan a fueling schedule and if you get to a checkpoint feeling hungry, eat a little bit and then take some extra food with you to have along the way if you still feel hungry.
Include post-race recovery foods- Even though after long-distance races runners have a hard time eating within 30-45mins after the race, try to include some proper recovery foods or drinks. You want to make sure you replenish your glycogen levels and repair your muscles to feel better the next day. Post-race recovery foods have to include carbohydrates and protein, whether it’s a protein shake or real food, make sure you consume something you are able to digest.
Train Hard, Eat Right, and Feel Great!