Race Week Nutrition – Food for Thought

It’s the week before the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend and the excitement is starting to build up. Some newer runners might think that the race week taper is about cutting down on heavy training and eating less so that they feel light and fast on race day…while others intuitively think that carbo-loading with a big plate of pasta the night before the race will be enough to run well on race day. Both of these approaches will likely guarantee a ho-hum race performance…. so here is some food for thought to get you to race morning ready to put in the performance you’ve been training for!

Race week means that it is time to taper your training but NOT your diet. The carbohydrate rich sport nutrition diet that you (should) have been following needs to be continued all week to ensure that your muscles are topped up even more than usual. By maintaining your carbohydrate intake while tapering your training you can get 20-30% greater storage of carbohydrate in your muscles cells – which translates into better running performance on race day. While you might feel “heavy-legged” the morning of your run from all the extra carbohydrate and water that is now being stored in those muscle cells you will soon start turning this extra energy into muscular work. The bonus is – you will have some extra energy to burn!

Race Day – Words of Wisdom
1.Do what you normally do before your longer training runs. Use familiar foods and fluids that you have trained with, both before your race and during your race. Stick with your tried and true favourites.
2.If competing stresses you out, you may need to get up extra early to get some food and fluid in before your gut responds to the stress of the day and acts up.
3.Bring a sport drink (or water and small carbohydrate rich snacks that you use pre-run) into the runners’ corral, especially if you know you will be in there for more than 15 minutes before your race starts. The excitement (or anxiety) right before a race can burn up lots of blood sugar leaving you feeling heavy legged and lethargic at the beginning of your run. So sip on a sport drink while you are waiting for your wave to be called up to the line.
4.Your job during the run is to get enough fluid and carbohydrate so that you are sufficiently hydrated and fueled throughout the majority of your run. You have done the training, you are fueled up and ready to go, so focus on the task at hand and enjoy the race!

Beth Mansfield is a Registered Dietitian, Sport Nutrition & Exercise Specialist with Peak Performance. Check out Beth’s scheduled workshops here.