How to get race ready!
Your diet before a big sporting event, especially those lasting longer than 90 minutes, will have a huge impact on your performance and could help you grasp that much desired time you're aiming for.
Before an event keeping your body hydrated should be a key focus. If you are dehydrated your performance will ultimately suffer. It has been shown that poor hydration can see race day speeds drop by upto 6-7%. So before you even put those trainers on, make sure you are well hydrated, especially if the weather you will be training or competing in is hot and humid.
The best way to know that you are fully hydrated is to check the colour of your urine. Once your urine is clear you are good to go as your body is fully hydrated. When your urine begins to show colour again this is when you can then top up that water intake - simple!
Prior to the sporting event or race you want your muscle and liver glycogen stores to be fully stocked. This will provide you with adequate fuel, allowing you to exercise for longer periods of time before fatigue takes hold.
I am sure you have heard of carb loading before?!
It has been shown that carbohydrate loading, when done correctly, increases time to exhaustion by 20% and can improve performance by upto 2-3%. So it is beneficial and worth considering pre event.
Now carb loading isn't an excuse to gorge on pizza, fast foods and chips! Ideally your total calorie consumption should remain unchanged. Instead it should just be the ratio of your macronutrients that alter; the carb rich foods should increase with the amounts of fats and proteins decreasing. If you choose to try carb loading, try it during your training sessions, ideally prior to a planned long run for example, to find out if it works for you. Avoid trying anything new directly before an event or competition. You will need to try the amounts and types of foods for yourself and adjust accordingly to be able to optimise your performance and recovery. On average it's recommended that a 7-10g of carbohydrate per body weight / kg is the ideal intake during periods of intense training. However nutrition is not a one size fits all equation, so find what works best for you.
Before exercise try to eat at least 60 minutes prior. It has been shown that low GI foods (whole brans, sweet potatoes, brown rice, etc) eaten 2-4 hours prior to exercise may help improve endurance and delay fatigue. Do not skip your evening meal the night before your event - even if you have pre-event nerves. You will need the fuel sources from your meal the next day.
The week leading up to the event reduce your usual training schedule and rest for the 1-3 days prior - you will need all your energy and this will also help avoid any muscle injury which could impact your performance on the day.
Example food plans the week of the event
Always stick to simple, familiar foods the week of the event, avoid any new foods or new food combinations and avoid fatty or oily foods and alcohol.
Below are some example meals that could be beneficial
- Toast with jam or honey
- Chicken with rice
- Pasta with fish
- Rice or noodle dishes
- Jacket potato with tuna and sweetcorn
- Stir fry with chicken or tofu
Good luck with your training, both on the pitch and in the kitchen!
Armstrong, L.E. et al. (1985), ‘Influence of diuretic induced dehydration on competitive running performance’. Med. Sci. Sports Ex., Vol 17, pp. 456-61
Bean, A (2017) ‘The complete guide to sports nutrition’. Bloomsbury, London
Hawley, J. et al. (2011) ‘Carbohydrate loading and exercise performance’. Sports Med., Vol 24(1), pp1-10