Sportsister helps you prepare for a big event or race with some simple nutrition guidelines to follow to ensure you feel ready and know what works for you.
So, you’ve started your training and now the big day is approaching. Whether it’s a marathon or a 5k run there are plenty of things you should be thinking about to make sure you perform to your absolute best on the day. This can be quite tricky as you’re suddenly faced with new surroundings, having to travel to your event and possibly being away from home as well as numerous other distractions.
In reality it doesn’t have to be at all daunting, provided you are well prepared and think about ‘race day’ well in advance. In fact there is one golden rule which should really make life very easy…
Never do anything on race day which you haven’t done in training!
It might sound obvious, but you wouldn’t wear a brand new pair of trainers for your first marathon so why would you suddenly tuck into a new food or eat at a different time just because you are competing. So the trick is to make sure you start your planning really early and establish a well-rehearsed routine for your training sessions. The beauty of this is that when it comes to race day you will know exactly what works for you.
The following are a few basic rules which should provide you with a framework to establish a routine, but it is vital to remember that you are unique so you need to learn what works for you – which may be a case of trial and error to start with.
- Try to avoid eating a large meal immediately before training. It will take 2-3 hours to digest a main meal, so work out what suits you and make sure you allow enough time before heading off.
- Your lunch or supper the night before a big session should contain a good lean source of protein (roughly the size of the palm or your hand) as well as plenty of vegetables or salad and complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal rice, pasta or potatoes. If your last meal is breakfast then good ideas include porridge, yoghurt with fruit and muesli or wholemeal bread with a poached egg.
- You may want to have a snack before you set out for a training session, and it is best to stick to carbohydrates at this point as they are more quickly digested. This will largely be a process of trial and error as you work out what suits you best, but popular pre-training snacks include bananas, dried fruit, oatcakes, isotonic drinks and fruit.
- It is absolutely essential to ensure you are adequately hydrated before you head off. It is best to drink little and often throughout the day so that you don’t lose fluids in loo breaks and also so that you don’t need to stop half way around! Remember that fruit and vegetables also contain lots of fluids, so are a great way to keep your hydration levels up.
- If you are on the go for longer that an hour you will need to take on carbohydrates during your session to keep yourself fuelled. The most effective way to do this is with isotonic drinks as they are designed to keep you hydrated at the same time as supplying you with carbohydrates in a form that your body can easily and quickly absorb. Taut is the only ‘clean’ sports drink on the market which doesn’t contain artificial flavours, colours or caffeine and has excellent levels of anti-oxidants. If you are able to eat while you are training then bananas or energy bars can be good options, but again this is very much down to personal preference.
- Finally, make sure you have food and fluids ready to help you recover immediately afterwards. This will help reduce pain and stiffness and allow your body to repair more quickly than if you neglect to eat anything. Good post-training foods could be a sandwich with wholemeal bread, chicken and salad, fruit juice and oatcakes with hummus or a smoothie made with yoghurt, fruit and oats. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water too.
Once you have mastered all these ideas and got your training ritual down to a fine art the following tips will help make sure you’re totally prepared for the big day…
- If you need to take on fluids or food during your event make sure you practice this in training as it is not as easy as it sounds! It takes time to get used to this and it is essential you master the art before your big day.
- Plan what you will drink and eat during the event. Contact the race organisers to find out what drinks and food are available during the race. The further in advance you can find this out the better as it will mean you can either adapt your training to be appropriate for what is provided, or make sure you have all your own supplies ready.
- Plan what you will eat leading up to the race. This will depend on the timing of the event and how far you have to travel to get there. Make sure you put plenty of thought into this so that you don’t suddenly find you have missed breakfast or are eating too soon before the event.
- Make a check-list for the day. This is important not just for food, but also for your kit. The last thing you want is to set off and find out you have a puncture or no water in your bottle!
Finally, make sure you enjoy the day and remain as relaxed as possible! Good luck!
Claire Dunt, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
Claire Dunt founded Food Mentor in 2006 after gaining her Nutritional Therapist’s Diploma from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, and an FdSc in Nutritional Science from the University of Bedfordshire. Claire also holds a BA Hons degree in Sport Science from the University of Durham and is a member of the British Association of Nutritional Therapists.
Claire’s passion for Nutritional Therapy and Sports Nutrition can be directly traced to personal experience: She has played lacrosse for British Universities, England U21s and Senior England B. She has also directly benefited from Nutritional Therapy which has helped her end a life-long battle with eczema.