Race Week FUEL Strategies
There is a saying about the days before a big race or event. “There is nothing you can do in the week before a race to help yourself. You can only do things to hurt yourself.”
There is some truth to this and it should be used as a warning not a let-down.
What does the statement really mean? It is meant to caution runners to not work out too much or try to “fit it all in” before a race. It implies that the main focus in the week before a race is to rest and enjoy the end of the current journey.
There are obvious things that could hurt yourself in the week before a big race: trying to squeeze in one last long run; replacing “easy” runs with other high-intensity workouts; or simply being excessively busy and tired- all of these will hurt performance on race day.
However, many leave out an important factor and that is the FUEL strategies leading up to a big race. Just as training adjust to a “taper,” where mileage and intensity decrease in preparation for the event so should dietary habits.
You can also hurt yourself in the week before a big race if you are dehydrated, over hydrated, undernourished, over nourished, or have a bought with food poisoning or food intolerance.
Some dietary things to keep in mind over the next week:
This is not a time to make majors changes in your diet. Stick with familiar foods. Be aware that when training decreases to “taper” so should calorie intake to avoid excessive weight gain. Note: It is not uncommon to see a 2 or 3 pound increase on the scale the week before, this is water weight. The body is storing adequate water to be hydrated for the event.
FYI: For every gram of glycogen (fuel) your body stores away in the muscles, it also packs away 2.6 grams of water. Having extra water on board is a great advantage during hot and humid conditions!
FUEL Tip: DO NOT CARB LOAD ALL WEEK LONG YOU WILL GAIN WEIGHT!
Non-elite runners are notorious for gaining up to 5lbs+ race week due to counterproductive, over eating practices. I realize you may be nervous about not having enough energy or rationalize with yourself that you will “run it off Saturday” but you will have enough and you will not run it all off.
The day and night before a race:
Please remember the quote on this day: “There is nothing you can do in the week before a race to help yourself. You can only do things to hurt yourself.”
If you have been eating a proper diet or follow a Runner’s FUEL meal plan in the weeks leading up to the race you are well prepared. You can NOT undo weeks of poor dietary habits in one 24 hour period.
However, it is important to “top” off your fuel tank. Increase carbohydrate consumption by 200-300 calories the day before. This is NOT an all you can eat buffet. This is NOT all at one meal (read and repeat out loud).
Gradually add extra carbohydrate rich foods to each meal through out the day. Do not over fill the fuel tank at once because it will store as FAT not fuel, this is counterproductive. A little added throughout the day ensures glycogen (fuel) tanks are topped off and at maximum capacity.
FUEL Tip: If a trip takes 500 gallons of fuel but your car only holds 50 gallons at a time you must stop and “top it off” periodically to reach your destination.
What to eat?
Focus on fruits and foods that are juicy by nature: Bananas, peaches, cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew melon, along with vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams. Snack on dried fruit.
Do not forget to include lean protein and fat with each meal or snack to keep your blood sugar level.
Reduce dietary fiber to allow for calmer digestion of foods in preparation for the next day’s race.
Wake up early enough to have a decent breakfast 1-2 hours before the events starts. Give the stomach time to digest and have time to answer Mother Nature’s call before the race starts.
There are a few Pre Race FUEL Goals to remember:
1. Satisfy Hunger: The longer breakfast is delayed the greater the risk of starting under fueled. Why important? Muscle and liver glycogen (fuel) will be depleted from the start and there is no possible way to fill back to capacities once the race starts.
FUEL TIP: Your body (car) will not be fuel efficient if started on empty.
2. Restock carbohydrates stores depleted by the overnight fast:
The body repairs and replaces tissues as an ongoing maintenance routine at night since birth! Other energy demands through the night include – breathing, cardiac activity, movement, digestion, and other functions. When we awake after sleep stores are naturally depleted. Replacing the expended calories is important to immediate athletic performance!
3. Include a heart healthy fat: Fat is the second fuel source the body utilizes once the carbohydrates have been depleted or aerobic activity has set at “cruise control”. Dietary fat also helps stabilize blood sugar and increases satiety.
FUEL Tip: Dietary fat improves the bodies (car) fuel (gas) efficiency so you get more miles out of a single tank.
4. Hydrate but do not OVER hydrate: Prevent the onset of dehydration during exercise by being well hydrated before. Research suggests that consuming adequate fluids relative to thirst reduces protein breakdown during exercise. Consuming to much fluid will flush out precious electrolytes and increase potty stops!
FUEL Tip: 16-24 oz before the race over a 2 hours span
5. Keep the meal low in fiber and caffeine, unless previously tested.
Examples of Pre Race FUEL Choices
· Oatmeal with 2 eggs
· Fruit with 2 eggs
· Smoothie with protein powder
· 1 slices toast 1 tbsp peanut butter with 1 medium banana
· Bagel with peanut butter
· Bagel with cream cheese
· Hammer Protein Bar
· Lara Bar
If you already have a routine stick with it…
RUN Healthy and Good LUCK!