Race hydration and nutrition
ALWAYS ENSURE YOU HAVE EATEN WELL AND STAY HYDRATED IN THE DAYS LEADING UP TO A RACE.
Nutrition is just as important as your physical training, below are tips to help you prepare.
NOTE: We are currently writing considerably more content for this page and it will soon have a lot more information on diets and race nutrition for runners. So come back to this page in coming weeks to see more.
1. Carb loading is a long and gradual process, not a last-minute cram fest
It’s long been thought that a few days of carb loading prior to an event is a magic bullet that will somehow boost our glycogen stores to elite levels. Sorry, our bodies don’t work like that. Every time we do a training session, a workout or a race, we put our body into a state where it is more receptive to restoring the energy we’ve just expended. Your body is pretty smart and so every time you replace those carbs it stores a little more for next time.
Take away: Every training session is an investment in your race day fuel stores; have a carb rich meal within 30-60 minutes of every session and forego the two-day-buffet leading up to an event.
2. Breakfast is no time to make up for lost time
Training been a bit hit and miss? Think you can make amends with a big fat bowl of oats? Sorry Chief, it doesn’t work like that. Firstly, having a big meal will temporarily consume all that glycogen you’ve worked so hard to store away (see 1A). Secondly, like was mentioned above, loading up the muscle glycogen is a gradual process, not something you can achieve the morning of an event.
Take away: Keep breakfast small and made up of complex carbohydrates (e.g. a piece of toast or a small amount of porridge), no protein and limited fat. If possible, finish breakfast 3 hours prior to the start of a race.
3. Fuel Early
Race nutrition is like a drip. Start early, keep it going throughout the event and choose a fuel that isn’t based on simple sugars like Fructose. Fructose in particular, popular in some gels,has a reputation for causing gastric distress. What’s the point of filling your belly with calories if those same calories are going to give you gas, bloating and potentially worse.
Take away: Consume 100-200 calories per hour from a reliable fuel source, like VFuel. This will keep you adequately fuelled for most events.
4. Go easy on the fluids
The old myths of “Thirst is a poor indicator of hydration” and “if you wait ’til you’re thirsty, it’s already too late” are dead. Sure, rehydration and taking electrolytes on board is very important, but drinking to excess can lead to a potentially fatal condition known as water intoxication (aka Hyponaetraemia). Your aim should be to take on what your body can readily absorb and not reach saturation point where your stomach sounds like a draining bath.
Take away: For events of less than an hour you probably don’t need more than a few sips to quench your thirst. Beyond that, limit your intake to max of about 500-750ml/hour.
5. Find something that works and stick to it
Every man and his dog has an opinion about the best way to fuel for an endurance event. At the end of the day, the only way to know if something works for YOU is to try it. They call this the “Experiment of One”. Aintnobodygottime to waste on reinventing the wheel but nor is there a one-size-fits-all solution to Endurance Nutrition.
Take away: Test, test, and test again during training but once you’ve got something that works for you, stick to it.
Of course, there will be plenty of food and beverage options at the event expo to refuel after your race.