/* Style Definitions */
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";}
One of the number one questions endurance athletes ask is, “What should I eat before a race?” While there is not one menu or approach that fits everyone, there are some general guidelines that everyone can follow in the 24 hours leading up to the race.
12-24 Hours Prior to Race Time
Hydration is important. Possibly the biggest issue which could negatively impact your race is dehydration. If a person loses as little as 1 % of their body weight in fluid, it can decrease their performance by up to 10 %. An athlete should reach their full hydration potential before a race. This can be done through fluid replacement drinks such as Gatorade or Accelerade. But it is also important to remember not to drink too much water. If your urine is a very light to clear color, then you are where you want to be.
In the past, a process called carbo-loading was popular for helping athletes store up a few extra carbohydrate calories that would be needed on race day. Research has now determined that this type of eating can be extremely stressful to the body. It has been shown to be more harmful then beneficial and result in lower energy out-put, ergo the athlete feels worse and goes slower during the race.
Eating “simple foods,” foods that are easy to process and digest such as greens, fruits, lean proteins, or foods that have Omega-3’s are a good choice before your race. You want to avoid foods that are slow to empty from your stomach and will have you running to the Port-o-Potty before the gun goes off. Pretty much anything high in fat, fiber, or that is highly processed fits into this category. Your best bet is to test out your meal before a long training session and see what works.
5-11 Hours Prior to Race Time
Timing your meals is a key component to making the most out of your pre-race nutrition. Your last large meal should be finished at least 12 hours before race time. This means that if you have a scheduled start of 7 a.m. on Saturday; you should finish your last meal by 7 p.m. on Friday. This is to ensure that everything is fully digested before the race starts. It is also important during this time to continue hydrating, primarily with water. This will help to ensure that your body is fully fueled for the race.
0 – 4 Hours Prior to Race Time
When asked, athletes will generally say that their pre-race breakfast falls into one of two categories: liquid or solid. What you choose will depend on what your stomach can handle. Liquid calories are more easily digested and may settle on the stomach better. There are many meal replacement drinks that work perfect for this. They enable you to drink 500-700 calories on race morning very easily. Solid food provides nutrients that tend to break down more slowly but you run the risk of heartburn or a stomach ache if you eat it too close to the race.
When choosing solid food, the rule of thumb is to consume it 2-4 hours before the race while continuing to hydrate until the start of the race. At least 80 percent of the calories you consume in your pre-race meal should come from carbohydrates. It is important to keep your protein and especially your fat and fiber consumption low because these nutrients take up space that is better utilized by carbohydrates. A meal that has always worked for me is a small bowl of oatmeal with a tablespoon of dried fruit and nuts. Regardless of what you choose, it is important to give your pre-race meal a “trial run” during your training sessions so you can be sure to know what works best.