Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What Should You Eat Before the Big Race?

This post goes out to Leah who stopped by our booth at the Grandad Marathon's Fitness Expo this past weekend and had some great questions on what she should be eating before her races.

The examples below are specific to her body size so they may need some adjusting depending on how big you are.

Pre-Race Eating: What's important?
Before the race, Leah should focus on two things: 1) Make sure that the gas tanks is full so she has plenty of fuel for the race; 2) Make sure that she is well hydrated.  However, in this case instead of Unleaded Gasoline she will be consuming carbohydrates as they will be the main source of fuel during her race which are digested as stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. In order to accomplish this, she should consume approximately 100-200 grams of carbohydrates and 20-30 grams of protein 4-5 hrs prior to the race time to allow for enough time to digest the carbs and get them to where they need to go.

This is where what is "optimal" may not always be practical.  If she has an 8:00 AM start time, a breakfast 4-5 hrs prior would mean she would have to get up at 3:30 AM to eat. Now don't get me wrong, some people can utilize this strategy and still perform well. However I'm apart of the school of thought that a good night's sleep is just as important as nutrition.  Therefore I would recommend consuming a larger snack/mea right before bed time and then get up around 5:00-6:00 AM and have a moderate sized breakfast.

Her meal the night before could look something like:

  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
  • 1 Glass of Whole Milk
  • 1 Banana

Nutrition Information: 
Calories: 690
Carbs: 94.5 grams
Sugars: 45.25 grams
Fiber: 10.1 grams
Fat: 27 grams
Protein: 24.25 grams

Then she could get up a few hours before the race and have the following for a light breakfast that ideally should consist of ~40-60 grams of carbs and 15-20 grams of protein.

Race Day Breakfast:
  • 1 Cup of Oatmeal
  • 1 Apple (diced)
  • 1tsp. Cinnamon
  • 3 Eggs Scrambled

Nutrition Information:
Calories: 487 calories
Carbs: 53.8 grams
Sugars: 21.8 grams
Fiber: 8.4 grams
Fat: 18.5 grams
Protein: 24.5 grams

This way she should be able to get a well balanced meal the night before with plenty of time to allow for digestion and absorption to occur. The same goes for her light breakfast the morning of race day. This meal layout she provide her with optimal fuel stores to get her through the race.
Her other main area of focus should be hydration. She should drink a minimum 16-20 oz of water 2-3 hrs prior to race and plenty the day/night before (~2-4 L depending on environment).  Caffeine may be added for a performance boost if she tolerates it well.

I would shoot for 100-300 mg of caffeine at least 45 minutes prior to start time to optimize performance benefits and allow for a bathroom break if need be.  She would also want to make sure to consume 8-12 oz of water 10-15 minutes prior to the start of the race.  It's important to note that these recommendations are specific to Leah which means they are tailored to her based on her body size and race duration (half marathon).  A larger athlete or someone running a greater distance would have to change things up a bit. Also it's important to know that I never recommend a new dietary strategy on or before race day. ALWAYS try out a new food, supplement or timing strategy during training to make sure you tolerate it well.

Good luck with your future races Leah!

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