Your Race Day Plan

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What do you eat before a run? When is the ideal time to drink and eat during your race? Here’s what you need to know to fuel a good run as well as your recovery after you cross the finish line! – BY CHRISTINE PETERS, REGISTERED DIETICIAN

If you’re looking to plan your perfect race-day eating plan, you need to understand that there are four main stages to your race day nutrition, and you need to focus on each stage in order to get your race day nutrition right.

1. BEFORE THE RACE (2-3 HOURS)


If running a morning race, your meal shortly after waking up will be your last substantial meal before your race. This is your opportunity to top up the glycogen stores, which would have been partially depleted from your overnight fast. After eating, you should allow 1 to 3 hours for digestion before the start gun is fired.

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Recommendation:
1 to 2g per kilogram of body weight;
Low in fat and fibre;
High carbs;
Moderate protein.

Ideal Meal/Snack:
Porridge or cereal with low-fat milk or yoghurt, and white toast with peanut butter or jam.
Don’t forget to drink some water, diluted fruit juice, low-fat milk or your sports drink to top up fluids.
If you lack an appetite in the morning, you can choose 500ml of carbohydrate drink and a sports or cereal bar.

2. JUST BEFORE THE START
If your nerves allow, you should have another small and easily digested carbohydrate-based snack in the hour before you start, so grab a small banana, half a sports bar or some sports drink. Consuming a carbohydrate drink may prime the stomach and improve gastric emptying. This will give you a little push in the beginning stages of your run.

3. DURING THE RACE
Start eating and drinking early in the run (within 30 to 45 minutes) and consume 30-60g low-fat and fibre carbohydrate each hour. During ultra-endurance events lasting more than 2½ to 3hours, you can consume up to 90g an hour. Remember, your race strategy should be well rehearsed before the actual race day, so practise it in training first.

Recommendation:
0.7g carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per hour OR 30 to 90g of carbohydrate per hour. The body can oxidise 1g of carb per minute.
Start drinking early and continue drinking small amounts regularly. Combination carbohydrates increase oxidation (glucose, fructose, sucrose and maltidextrin are recommended, but not large amounts of fructose because of gastrointestinal discomfort).
Drink to thirst: Draw on your experience of hydrating from your training and races, and be aware of the weather conditions – hot and humid weather increases sweat-loss, which means you might need to adjust your drinking patterns, being careful not to overhydrate. A very basic guideline is to drink between 500ml and 2 litres per hour. Try ingesting frequent small amounts of fluid (150-200ml) every 15-20 minutes.

Ideal Meal/Snack:
Every 30-60min, try having 20-25g carbohydrates depending on size, intensity and duration:
½ sports bottle (375ml) of carbohydrate drink (6-8% carbohydrate solution);
1 sports bar/ cereal bar;
200ml Coca-Cola;
1 energy gel;
4-5 jelly babies;
1 large banana;
4-5 baby potatoes;
1 marmite sandwich (2 slices of white crustless bread);
45g dried fruit.

4. AFTER THE RACE
Refuelling assists with recovery and repairing muscle after exercise, and a good recovery snack or drink should consist of carbohydrate and protein to replenish muscle glycogen stores, fluid, energy and electrolytes.

Recommendation:
0.6-1.5g carb per kilogram of body weight during the first 30min, then again every 2 hours for 4-6 hours. This is especially important if another bout of exercise is to be done within the next 24 hours.
Adequate fluid, electrolytes, energy and carbs;
Small, regular snacks;
Compact carb-rich foods;
20-25g of high-quality protein.

Ideal Meal/Snack:
A sandwich with cold meat, tuna or cheese;
Low-fat flavoured milk;
Low-fat drinking yoghurt;
Fruit smoothie (with low-fat milk or yoghurt as a base);
A handful of lean biltong with an energy bar.

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