Athletes & Parents,
As we finally begin our race season, and the accompanying hard workouts, nutrition becomes even more important than ever. To get the most out of yourself and the workouts you are doing, a proper balance in your diet is paramount. In a later blog entry, I will go into more detail about daily dietary needs and nutrition. For today, I’ll focus on the “night before” and “race-day” nutrition.
The Night Before a Race:
The good old days of the “carb-load” dinner are, if not dead, close to getting there, especially for the middle distances. The night before a race, your meal should consist of foods that are, in fact, relatively carbohydrate-rich. You just don’t want to go crazy with three plates of pasta. Trust me, I know!
Carbs are your main fuel source when running middle distances. Things like a moderate plate of pasta, rice, or similar meal will provide you with the necessary fuel to top off your stores for the next day. Vegetables and fruit can also add carbs and important nutrients. Just watch out for the fiber. You’ve all seen the lines at the bathroom before a race. Fiber only makes things worse. (Note that fiber is an important part of your diet on a regular basis, just not right before a race.)
Protein and fat are also important components of a healthy diet, but they are harder for your body to digest, so while they should be present in a pre-race meal, the amounts should be smaller than normal. (A bit of chicken, fish, tofu, etc. would suffice.) Difficult to digest nutrients cause your digestive system to require more blood, which means there is less blood going to your leg muscles, which means you won’t be running as fast.
To top things off, staying hydrated, even the day before, will make your race day performance more successful! No need to go crazy. Just keep sipping. A common mistake in regards to hydration is drinking loads of water and not getting enough electrolytes. These substances, such as sodium and potassium, are essential for the normal function of your nervous and muscular systems, among others.
Race eating is one of the most challenging parts of performing well. What to eat and when to eat it can be different for different athletes, but there are some general guidelines that should be followed.
If you are racing early, you may want to have as little as a banana or a piece of toast and jam 90 minutes to two hours before your race, and then supplement with an easily digestible energy gel 20-45 minutes before your race. Diluted sports drinks can also serve double duty in providing hydration, carbs, and electrolytes. At full strength, these drinks can sometimes cause stomach issues. It is best to sip water/sports drink, but be careful not to go too crazy. You don’t want 20oz of liquid sloshing around in your stomach come race time. The trick here is to have as little blood as possible going to your digestive system while you are racing, so more is carrying oxygen to your legs!If you are racing later, have a light breakfast, probably something similar to what you have on a daily basis (oatmeal, cereal, yogurt). Just stay away from the bacon, sausage, and eggs (or any other difficult to digest foods). Just don’t try something radical and new right before a race. Then, follow the suggestions for the early racers.
See you Saturday morning, and run hard to Amber on Friday night!
P.S. For those that can't make the second run on Saturday afternoon, come prepared to do some additional miles after the 1600m races. We should have a small group getting a post-race workout in, and then you can cheer on your teammates in the 800!