Eat Your Way to the Finish Line: 5 Nutrition Tips for a Successful Race Day
You’ve made the decision: You’re going to run a marathon, a half marathon, a 5K, 10K or any other major fitness event, like the upcoming Memorial SportsCare Women’s Biathlon. Good for you! That’s a huge undertaking. And, while training, you might hit hurdles or hard times. You might feel like giving up. But, with the right training and some healthy efforts, you can do it. Go you!
One aspect of training that gets lost in the shuffle but is an important, necessary part of your preparation is food. Nutrition training is as important as physical training–it can make or break your experience. Angie Sebree, a registered dietitian with Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center, offers her top five tips for training nutrition.
1. It’s not what you eat, but when you eat.
Sebree offers this tip to those in training: Figure out what time your event will be. While training, eat two hours before that time every day.
“Train your gut,” she said. “Treat every training day like it’s race day. If you plan to eat one or two hours before the event, eat that way when you train in that timeframe so you will feel the same way when training as you will on race day.”
2. Make sure what you’re eating is substantial.
If you have the ability to eat a meal two hours before the event, do that. Sometimes, however, that may not be feasible.
“If the race is at 7 a.m., you might not want to eat a large meal at 5 a.m., so eat a snack an hour before,” Sebree said.
Sebree’s rule of thumb for race day nutrition: About an hour to an hour and a half before the race, eat 20-30 grams of carbohydrates and 10-15 grams of protein. You can hit these numbers with a serving of chocolate milk, a Luna bar, a Nature Valley protein bar or a hardboiled egg with two pieces of toast.
3. Decide if you’re training for speed or weight loss.
You will need to choose, as both might not be possible.
“If you’re training for speed, you shouldn’t be losing weight,” Sebree said. “But if you’re training for weight loss, you should know your speed might not be your best.”
Either way, it is still important to eat within that structured schedule. You might simply need to adjust your calories. That said…
4. Be sure you get enough calories.
“If you don’t eat enough calories or get adequate nutrition, you’re going to get very fatigued,” Sebree said. “Your weight loss might stall. There is a fine line between eating and physical activity.”
Sebree suggests tracking your caloric input and output using MyFitnessPal or a Fitbit device.
5. Hydration is everything.
“About a week before your event, make sure you’re very hydrated–overly hydrated even,” Sebree said. “A standard 64 to 80 ounces per day plus what you’re losing during your workout.”
Not sure how to quantify how much water you’re losing? Here’s a good rule to follow: For every 30 minutes of physical activity, give yourself 10-16 ounces of fluid.
The day of the race, two hours before event, drink about 16-24 ounces of fluid, with 12 of those ounces within an hour before the event.
“After an hour of physical activity, start using Gatorade or other electrolyte replacing fluids,” Sebree said. “Shoot for 10 to16 ounces every 30 minutes.”