It's the day of your event!
A huge congrats, you've worked so hard to get to this point already.
What you eat and drink on the day of a sporting event is often overlooked, but it is just as important as your nutrition running up-to the competition.
What you consume during your event can help you recover more quickly in between heats and after the event itself.
Why would you go through all that hard work of training and preparing to waste it when competition day arrives?!
So below are some tips to help you keep on your A game
There are no clear cut rules about how much to drink during a race itself and needs vary from person to person. The optimal amount also depends on the event itself; its intensity, duration and weather conditions.
There hasn't been any hard evidence to show that that competitors who drink more fluid than lost (through sweat and secretion) run any faster compared to those who drink less than they lose. Therefore, ideally you want to refrain from drinking if you are not thirsty - simply don't just drink for the sake of it! Carry a drinks bottle with you during the event so you always have some fluids to hand if you do need it. (This is something I haven't actually yet tried myself but something I keep being advised to do! )
For intense exercise consuming an isotonic sports drink or mouth rinsing with the drink for 5-10 seconds then spitting it out may improve performance by up to 11%. However Isotonic drinks can cause stomach upsets, so like everything else, ensure that you train and practise prior to the event with these drinks.
Evidence has also shown that there is no difference in levels of hydration gained from drinking fizzy sports drinks Vs non fizzy. Although, fizzy drinks are more likely to cause stomach upsets, gas and heartburn - which of course no one wants at all, especially when competing in an event! Also avoid high fructose drinks like fruit juices, as they can be a cause of stomach upsets due to them being harder for the body to absorb.
To break it down,
- Ideally you want to consume approx 500ml of fluids 2 hours prior to the event.
- Drink slowly to help promote hydration and allow sufficient time to pass any excess before you set off.
- A further 125-250ml, can then be drank 15-30mins just before the event.
Ideally you want to have your main meal 2-4 hours pre event - this may mean getting up early if your event is in the morning - So set those alarm clocks guys!
The reason for this is because you want to allow your stomach enough time to fully digest and regulate insulin levels. If you are nervous you may want to give yourself a little bit longer, as nerves can also slow down your digestion rate. If your event is in the evening try to eat at 3 hour intervals throughout the day.
When deciding what to eat on event day look at building your plate around low GI carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, brown rice / pasta etc.) these will give you a steady drip-feeding of energy. Your meal should also be low in fat and contain a complete protein source (chicken, eggs, tofu)
For a perfect plate you also want your meal to be low in fibre, not too heavy, salty or spicy. This will help avoid stomach complaints and dehydration.
Your meal should also be normal and familiar to you, this is not the time to try out that new recipe or restaurant you’ve been dying to go to!
Example foods to eat pre event (Breakfast)
- Porridge with bananas
- Toast with butter and jam
- Poached eggs on toast
- Overnight oats with strawberries
Example foods to eat pre event (Lunch)
- Sandwich with tuna or chicken
- Pasta with chicken and tomato sauce
- Jacket potato with filling
Example foods to eat pre event (Snacks)
- Granola bar
- Greek yogurt with fruit
- Rice cakes with nut butter
If you are competing for a long amount of time, say, over two hours, it's recommended that you have your food or drink 30 mins into the event and then at regular intervals throughout. So if your heading for that marathon try fuelling yourself approximately every 5km. It has been shown that consuming high GI carbs during exercise can help maintain exercise intensity for longer whilst also delaying fatigue.
Example foods to eat during events
- Energy bars
- Jelly babies
- Raisins or dates
- Sports drink
Pre match nerves
Its normal to feel nervous before an event, so don't worry about it! However being nervous can suppress your appetite and also cause stomach upsets. Therefore it's a good idea to try semi-solid foods like oats or mashed potatoes. These will give you a source of fuel whilst also being a bit more easy to take in.
The best advice is to try to avoid high fibre foods like bran and dried fruits and also think about avoid cruciferous veggies that can cause gas e.g. Brussel sprouts and broccoli
So to summarise, on event day you want to:
- Keep hunger at bay
- Keep well hydrated
- Maintain blood sugar levels
AND have fun!!!
Remember nutrition is highly individual so you need to experiment and find a fuelling plan that works for you before the event itself
Bean, A (2017) ‘The complete guide to sports nutrition’. Bloomsbury, London
De Ataide e Silva, T. et al, (2013), ‘Can carbohydrate mouth rinse improve performance during exercise? A systematic review’. Nutrients. Dec 19, 6(1), pp.1-10. Doi: 10.3390/nu6010001.