Gearing up for race day ~ Nutritional tips from Mikki Williden, Sports Nutritionist and runner  

Participating in a distance run event (the 12k and 25k options) in the middle of summer (fingers crossed!) makes it essential to consider nutrition tactics for the day before and the day of the race, regardless of whether you are an experienced athlete, with a personal best time as a goal, or someone tackling the Wharf 2Wharf race for the first time.

Some of you will be aware that the main fuel source for our muscles is carbohydrate (CHO), a nutrient stored in a limited capacity within our muscles that needs to be replenished on a daily basis.  During an endurance event such as the Wharf 2 Wharf run, our supplies of CHO are depleted after around 90 minutes, and therefore we benefit from making sure we are fully topped up prior to the race start. In addition, being fully hydrated will help offset fatigue caused by dehydration, particularly during an endurance event that is typically run on a summer’s day.

Most people training for a distance running event have heard of CHO loading, where one consumes larger the normal amounts of predominantly CHO food to ensure their muscle fuel stores are fully topped up. However many people confuse this with overeating, resulting in feeling heavy and somewhat lethargic. Here are some tips of what you can do the day before and the day of your goal race so you feel fit and fast.   Ideally you want to focus on increasing your overall consumption of CHO minimising fat and protein intake (this is so CHO ISN’T displaced by other foods).  Because you may be feeling nervous it’s a good idea to focus on low fibre, low residue foods – the ones that we always try not to eat in a normal healthy diet essentially! It’s okay to put aside normal dietary guidelines the days leading up to a race.

Some tips:   Eat smaller, more frequent meals, focusing on CHO foods are digested a lot quicker – the advantage of this before race day is that you feel hungrier earlier, and will therefore eat more CHO to top up your muscle fuel stores, without feeling overfull. It’s better to eat more frequently than increase the size of your meals too much.   If you run the morning – go out before you eat anything and have a banana/juice as soon as you get back in – puts CHO stores in a state ready to be replenished.Breakfast: focus on white bread / bagel with jam or honey, banana and drink orange juice or similar for breakfast. A smoothie with fruit and fruit yoghurt is also ideal. Adding in liquid CHO sources help increase CHO amount without increasing levels of fullness.Snack on pretzels (high CHO and energy, low fat), jelly lollies, muesli bars (low fat – like cereal bars, crackers, sports bars (such as Powerbars) during the day. Keep snacks handy so you aren’t left with nothing to eat. Dried fruit is great (if you can handle the fibre content).Lunch – a couple of sandwiches, a little bit of cheese and salad etc (i.e. sandwiches) or have one peanut butter sandwich and one jam sandwich if you can eat that much! If not just the jam sandwich.  Try for 8 pieces sushi if that’s what you feel like. Toast with spaghetti another great option. Add juice.Dinner – pasta made with a tomato based (low fat) sauce rather than cheese sauce. Small amount of lean protein (i.e. tuna/chicken), minimal vegetables. Add juice. Or try rice with sashimi, baked potatoes with spaghetti.Dessert: fruit and yoghurt / low fat ice cream – have a trim hot chocolate or the like for extra sugar with some plain biscuits.Drink Electrolyte drink / juice throughout the day to continually top up glycogen stores as the day before

Ensure you are adequately hydrated!!Prepare post-race recovery food (banana/jelly lollies/sports drink…)   Morning of:   You will know how much food you can stomach prior to training/racing. If you don’t feel comfortable with food, a liquid meal replacement providing CHO or a smoothie is a great option. An early start for a distance running event may limit the amount you eat but, as you’ve adequately fuelled leading up, this doesn’t need to be a major issue. Some options for 1-3 hours before the event:   Porridge with extra brown sugar / dried fruit / honey added + toast and jamSandwich with peanut butter and jam + glass of juice + bananaOR a sports bar + Fruit smoothie or boxed milk drink (like Up and Go) + banana (ensure bar has ~40-50g CHO in it and is not a low CHO option).   Throughout race   While you should have your race nutrition sorted, this will refresh your memory to make sure you have sports gels ready to go. One every 30-40 minutes (depending on intensity of run) will supply glucose to your working muscles. Take with a few sips of water. Alternatively, some sports drink is a good way to get in electrolytes and CHO at the same time. However you have to consume around 400ml of sports drink to obtain the same amount of CHO (~25g) as a sports gel.

Take a few sips of water (at least) at every aid station! Don’t wait until you feel thirsty – the earlier the better. Make use of the electrolyte drink provided if you have trained on it and know that it will sit well in your stomach! Don’t try anything new on race day.   Post-race   Important to take on board nutrients as soon as you’ve completed your run. Have a sports drink at the end, plus a banana is a great start. While it might be the last thing you want to think about – this should be a priority so you can move properly the next day! Small, regular amounts of food over the next couple of hours until your next meal is a good idea; sandwiches, scones, muffins, fruit, crackers are all good options – taken with regular drinks of sports drink or another CHO-based beverage will help speed the recovery process. This is particularly important if you are then going to celebrate your race success with a beer or wine!   If you’d like to learn more about nutrition and exercise,

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