You are at the starting line of your biggest race of the year, well trained and rested. But, what did you eat?
Pre-race nutrition should accommodate the energy needs of your training schedule and allow you to top off your fuel tanks prior to competition. Note: Save weight loss for earlier training periods / off season.
Nutrition guidelines leading up to the event:
- Hydration should be adequate enough that urine remains light hay colored – clear.
- Carbohydrate intake should fall between 4 to 13 g/kg/day depending on energy needs.
- Protein intake should fall between 1.4 to 2.0 g/kg/day depending on energy needs.
- Fat intake should fall between 0.8 to 1.0 g/kg/day depending on energy needs.
Eating the night before a race can be confusing for athletes. Carb loading is a separate issue, but remember, you only need to add a serving of carb heavy foods to meals in the days leading up to the event. The meal the night before does not have to be anything crazy and you should have already tested it in training. It should help fulfill the dietary recommendations listed above, digest well, and not leave you felling overly full. A 10 oz. hamburger with four slices of cheese, french fries and a huge salad with blue cheese dressing is probably not the best option. A whole grain wrap with 3 oz of turkey, spinach, and cranberry glaze with side of rice pilaf, baked potato and a glass of milk is getting much closer. And of course, maintain hydration.
Other recommendations to consider the day before the event include:
- “Graze” sensibly throughout the day on quality carb rich, lower in fiber foods to maintain glycogen stores.
- Add a DASH or two of salt to a meal.
- Eat foods that are familiar to you.
Your pre-race meal should be carbohydrate based and low to moderate in fat and protein. Again, we want it to be easy to digest and something familiar. General pre-race meal should look a little something like this:
- Eat 1 to 4 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight between 1 to 4 hours before the race. The closer you are to race time the less you should eat. For example, a 150 pound athlete eating 2 to 3 hours before the event consider something like 1 cup of cereal with 1 cup of skim milk, two pieces of toast with jelly and a 12 oz orange juice.
- Drink 16 to 20 oz of fluids or sports drink about two hours before your race and then drink 7 to 10 oz of sports drink 10 to 20 minutes before the race.
It is important to note that everyone has their own pre-race meal. These guidelines above can certainly help but you should consider talking to a knowledgeable dietitian and use your training to tailor your diet.