~ Written by Steph Cronin from Perform Dietetics ~
If you have spent hours training each week then it only makes sense to optimise your performance with the correct nutrition. The golden rule of sports nutrition is to practice your race day nutrition during training to ensure everything goes to plan on the day…NOW is the perfect time to perfect your race nutrition plan!
Why is it important to have a plan and practice your race day nutrition in advance? Because one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to nutrition and particularly during endurance racing! Below are some points to consider during training when preparing for your key race:
- Fuelling right: the nutrition you eat & drink before and during an endurance event should be carbohydrate-focused as carbs provide the most efficient source of energy for muscles (particularly when trying to get up hills!) Avoid high-fat and high-fibre foods to reduce the risk of experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms or what is commonly known as “runners’ gut”. Pre-race nutrition should start 2-3 days prior to race day and the focus should predominately be on eating quality carbohydrates (carbo-load, don’t garbo load!) and hydration strategies.
- Strategic timing: the timing and amount of fuel you consume is critical. It is important to have a good pre-race meal and allow enough time for digestion prior to race start. Ideally, your pre-race meal should include 2-4g of carbohydrate/kg of body weight and should be consumed 3-4 hours before race start, with a small top up just prior to the start gun. It is also important to eat or drink carbohydrates throughout your race due to the increased requirement of energy used throughout endurance events. It is best to take on small amounts of carbohydrate from sports drinks, gels, chews, bars or other products every 30-60 minutes to ensure a constant supply of energy. The amount of carbohydrate you require is very individualised and can vary between 15-60g of carbohydrates/hour during an endurance event.
- Gut training: this term means practicing eating or drinking nutrition during training to ensure your gut adapts and tolerates the food or drink well before the main event (i.e. avoid getting runners’ gut). Blood flow to the gastrointestinal organs decreases during exercise and is diverted to your hard-working muscles; so, when food or drink is consumed whilst running, it is harder for your gut to focus on digestion and can lead to disturbances such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps or bowel urgency. These symptoms can obviously be detrimental to your performance and ruin months of hard training. Practicing your race day nutrition (and ideally at race pace whilst training) will ensure you are confident on race day and enhance your performance, not hinder it!
If you are unsure where to start, then seeing an Accredited Sports Dietitian would be beneficial for you. Steph Cronin; Accredited Sports Dietitian and founder of Perform Dietetics specialises in designing individualised training and race day nutrition plans for athletes (whether you are an elite athlete or a weekend warrior!)
Perform Dietetics is Sunshine Coast based and offers face-to-face or online consultations Australia-wide.
M: 0432 202 826
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