Race Nutrition

I just ran across a great article on Race Nutrition & had to share it, because I know I’ll be referring back to it. Here are the highlights:

Pre-Race Nutrition

Aggressive carbo loading isn’t necessary. Assuming you taper your mileage the week before the race like all training plans indicate, you’ll naturally retain more glycogen. Make sure you’re eating a good amount of carbs, but you don’t have to go out of your way to load up. Personally, I am going to feed my face with a gigantic plate of pasta on Wednesday night.

I would also add that you shouldn’t try to lose weight the week of the race. Focus on weight loss or optimal race performance, but not both. And if you ask anyone who has run a race before, it’s worth it to set the WL aside for a bit.

Race Morning Nutrition

Eat a meal rich in complex carbohydrates 3-4 hours prior to start time.

The article gives the details of why this time window is optimal. When I did my last 10k, I ate a big pile of pancakes with syrup about 3 hours before the gun & it worked great. Was neither hungry nor full by the time the race started. It’s also recommended that you take care of as much bathroom business before leaving home as possible, so have some strong coffee with your pancakes!

In-Race Nutrition

250 kCal an hour (if you can) from the first to the last step of the race. Focus on carbohydrates!

From what I’ve read in other articles, this is most critical for races longer than 90 minutes. I don’t feel the need to eat anything during the race, but when I begin actively training for the 10-mile next year, I’ll start experimenting with gels & stuff. A friend on MFP said she just carries jellybeans in her pocket & they work fine, so I’ll probably try that first!

The main thing is that you work out whatever your in-race nutrition is going to be during training so you’re not doing something new on race day. On my runs longer than 6 miles I’ve been carrying Gatorade in my water bottle instead of water, so I plan to do that on race day also & that will be enough for me.

Recovery Nutrition

Eat 1-2 g/kg carbohydrate within 30-60 min of exercise. Repeat this every hour. Consider adding 0.4g/kg protein to this to increase glycogen re-synthesis and muscle recovery.

So basically, after the race, eat lots of carbs & eat frequently for at least the next 5 hours. The recommended amount for me based on the above is 100-200g carb within the first hour. I tried to remember some of the stuff I ate immediately after my last 10k, & it turned out to be spot on. They had a nice spread. Here’s most of it:

  • Archer Farms Maple Walnut bar – 25g carbs
  • large banana – 31g carbs
  • Dole fruit cup – 19g carbs
  • bag of Pop Chips – 18g carbs
  • can of Coke – 39g carbs
  • Total of 132g carbs, <10g fat

I definitely kept eating the rest of the day…I was starving!

3 thoughts on “Race Nutrition

  1. Thanks for the great post. This is something I struggle with…I have found the way of eating that definitely suits me so well that I can maintain it forever, but my way of eating is low to very low carb. I’ve relaxed a little on race days, and tinker around with sweet potatoes, bananas, and sports beans. On my last race, a 5 mile trail race, I had my traditional breakfast of three eggs, a handful of macadamia nuts, and a half a buttered sweet potato about two hours before the start. A half hour before the race I ate a whole packet of Jelly Belly Extreme Sports Beans, the ones with carbs and caffeine. Between miles 4 and 5 I ate another few beans, which picked me up for a strong finish. The carbs make me nervous though, which I need to get over. Post race was Carolina BBQ (cooked over an open fire– yum!) and Brunswick, which I skipped because of the potatoes and beans. It’s such a game of trial and error!

  2. It really is…great job on the trail race! I’ll have to check out those sports beans, I bet that’s what my friend was talking about when she said she uses jellybeans. Low-carb eating & running can be a challenge, but hopefully my experience is proof that the occasional carbapalooza will not harm your weight loss, & it’s totally worth it to rock it out for a race! Of course, you’d want to try this out in training & not right before race day. There are low-carb/paleo endurance athletes out there, I remember reading about fat-loading before a race instead of carbo-loading. If you really prefer not to go the carb route it’s something to look into maybe. :)

    1. Thanks! I had such a great run because the trail is one I know well, and this time last year I was 40 lbs heavier, and couldn’t walk that entire trail. I had some bad memories of sweating and feeling crummy while trying to get back to the car on that trail! I’ve replaced those bad memories with good ones of me humming along, feeling just great. Even the hills and dunes were not such a big deal.

      If you try the beans, try the sour ones…I like the lemon, orange, and water mellon because they make my mouth water.

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