Race Week Nutrition: Dos and Don’ts to Follow
Your race day is a week away, and you have put in all the efforts in your long endurance runs. You have exhausted speed workouts and managed them without injury. Now, it is time to reduce your training load to feel fresh at the starting line. However, it can all go to waste if you do not have a well-defined nutrition plan. Sports science has established without a doubt that race performance is dependent on nutrition as an important ingredient in your overall race plan.
When it comes to endurance exercise, fats and carbohydrates are the two primary sources of fuel. They power muscle contractions that enable you to run for a sustained period. The amount of carbohydrates burnt in relation to fats depends on the intensity or pace at which you run. In a race, the effort level increases because of the desire to cross the finish line as fast as possible. So, the percentage of carbohydrates burnt is higher than fat.
Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrate. It is stored in the liver and muscles; a large portion of it is in the muscles. Since it is limited in quantity, glycogen gets depleted in longer races like a half or full marathon. So, it is essential to fill your glycogen stores to the maximum extent possible before the race.
How can you maximize your carbohydrate (glycogen) stores?
Let us consider a scenario when the race is on a Sunday. In that case, these pre-race, week-long nutritional guidelines can be useful.
1. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday
Ensure that you eat a nutritious and balanced diet. At this point, a marathon runner’s diet must include whole grains, vegetables, fruit, protein, dairy, and healthy fats. These items will provide you with the necessary carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs for recovery. A few examples of whole grains are atta, ragi, bajra, jowar, sabudana, dhalia, and corn.
2. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
During this period, the diet for marathon runners’ training should comprise a high quantity of carbohydrates. So, shift your dietary focus to increase the intake of carbohydrates. Simultaneously, reduce protein and fat in your diet so that the overall caloric intake remains the same. The composition of caloric intake should be such that carbohydrates must comprise 65% to 70% of your diet, followed by proteins (20% to 25%), and fat (10%).
Carbohydrates include grains, vegetables, and fruits. Avoid overeating, as, during this phase, your training load is low, and you gain weight easily. Refrain from eating foods that cause gas, as these can result in digestive distress. Hydrate all day long with water or dilute fruit juices, so that your urine is clear. Drink sufficient water and electrolyte on the day prior to the race. Eat light dinner on the night before the race.
Also Read: How to Fuel for Long-distance Runs
3. On race day
In the morning, eat an easily digestible breakfast. Your breakfast should have items, which are rich in carbohydrates and protein. However, do not eat animal protein, as it takes a long time to digest. The type and quantity of breakfast depend on how much time you have before the race. If you have three to four hours to go, you may eat a full breakfast. If you have about two hours, eat a light snack with some liquid carbohydrates, such as smoothies and juices. Drink enough water to ensure complete digestion of your meal.
A few breakfast alternatives that you may consider are poha with peanuts and potatoes, oats porridge with dry fruits, or toast with peanut butter, cheese, or jam. Follow up with some cut fruits and yogurt and wash it all down with fruit juice and water.
4. 90 minutes before the race starts
Hydrate continuously by sipping water or electrolyte. Analyze the weather and accordingly decide how frequently you need to hydrate during the race. If it is warm and humid, consider halting at all aid stations for fluid intake. Stop sipping fluids about 30 minutes before the race begins so that you may visit the washroom one last time.
A focus on nutrition can help you prepare for successful race execution. Create a detailed plan on what you will eat during the race week. The diet plan must also include items to be consumed on the night before the race and the subsequent morning. By following this practice with a disciplinary approach, you will not develop anxiety about food choices, as these tips will keep you relaxed and fueled for the race.