Runners spend a lot of time preparing for races. The last thing you want when it's time to hit the road is for mistakes in your dietary regimen to throw a wrench in the works, slowing you down or even stopping you from finishing the race.
The best way to combat this scenario is by honing your meal plan long before race day arrives. With trial and error, you can come up with the perfect foods, portion sizes, and eating times to fuel your best performance. Here are a few strategies you may want to consider.
Certain foods are going to boost your performance while others are likely to slow you down. While everyone needs appropriate portions of healthy fats as part of a balanced diet, you don't want to overload on fats before a race.
Eating a lot of fatty or greasy foods prior to a long run can leave you feeling bloated and lethargic, as well as lead to digestive problems like cramps and nausea, not to mention frequent trips to the bathroom. All in all, your performance is likely to suffer if you stuff yourself with fatty foods prior to your race.
Sugars are equally likely to upset your stomach and slow you down. They also burn off quickly, rather than providing sustained energy. In other words, it's best to cut back on fats and sugars before any race.
You should also beware of sugar content in sports drinks, gels, power bars, and anything else you might eat or drink during a long race. While a little bit of sugar can give you an instant boost, too much can cause indigestion and other issues that put a damper on your performance.
Slow burning carbs and protein have two advantages when it comes to providing fuel for your race. For one thing, they offer slow-burning nutrition that can give you extended energy, even if you load up the night before.
In addition, mild foods like plain pasta and lean meats are unlikely to cause any stomach upset, especially if you make sure not to pair them with oily sauces. They also move through your system a little more slowly than other foods, so unlike eating a big salad, you may avoid lots of bathroom breaks during your race.
The only caveat here is that you need to be careful about portion size. The practice of carb loading the night before a race is fairly common, but you don't want to overload. Eat regular portions in the days leading up to your race, and eat just until full the night before.
When paired with a light breakfast the morning of the race, this strategy should prove conducive to the best performance. It's always best to try out different foods and portion sizes prior to your race to make sure you're not going to have an adverse reaction while you're running.
The last thing you want is to become dehydrated during a race, but neither do you want to stop at every porta potty along the route. Determining the proper level of hydration is something you can figure out during the weeks leading up to your race, so that when race day arrives, you have a good idea of how much to drink before, during, and after your run.
Don't forget that weather conditions, like extreme heat on the day of your race, may necessitate additional hydration. You should stick to your plan for hydration, but make sure to pay attention to your body signals. If you're sweating more than normal, hydrate more. Don't forget to drink plenty of water after the race, as well.
If you run long races, like marathons, you may need additional fuel to keep you going when your energy starts to flag. Again, you should make an effort to find the best products for this purpose long before race day arrives.
There will likely be water stations along the way if you don't want to carry a camelback or other water container. However, you might also want sports drinks, energy gels, or power bars to boost your energy mid-race.
These products may not entirely agree with you, so it's important to test them out and find the ones you like best, as well as the portions your stomach can handle when you're running. You do not want to try new products and discover problems during your race.