A question I get asked frequently in clinic – What do I eat before a race? Check out the first in a line of “Ask Taryn” blogs.
What you eat before a race depends on how long you’ve got to digest and absorb it. If you have multiple hours (e.g. Byron Bay OD), something more solid will likely be tolerated. Compared to a short time-frame i.e. 1 hour or less, something smaller and easily digestible will work best. In saying that, everyone is different and you need to figure out what works best for you.
The pre-race meal is an opportunity to fine-tune fuel and fluid levels, making sure your tummy feels comfortable. The focus is on carbohydrate to top up muscle glycogen levels (the storage form of carbohydrate), ensuring this is low in fat and low-moderate in fibre to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal upset.
With the focus on carbohydrate and fluid, below are a few suggestions of things to eat and drink before racing:
* breakfast cereal with milk
* banana and yoghurt
* Up and Go or Sustagen Sport popper
* Muesli bar and a glass of milk or juice
* Toast, fruit toast, crumpets or English muffin with: honey and banana, vegemite, peanut butter and honey/jam
* Homemade smoothie
* 400-600ml Sports drink
If you know you are a nervous racer and food sits in your stomach for a while, I suggest for long races getting up a little earlier, ensuring you have something to eat 2 hours prior to race start. Choose a smaller volume and more carbohydrate dense options if this is you (e.g. 1-2 pieces of fruit toast with honey and sliced banana). If you can’t stomach anything solid, try a liquid meal such as Up and Go or simply just some sports drink.
Evidence also suggests having a bolus of fluid ~200-300ml with your pre-race meal helps move food out of the stomach and further along the path of digestion. This will also help you retain the fluid you’ve just drunk. Choose a carbohydrate-containing fluid such as milk, juice, cordial or sports drink. After your pre-race meal, just take small sips of fluid to keep your mouth from drying out leading up to race start if required, don’t gulp.
Experimenting to find the timing, amount and make up that best suits your individual needs is key. The best place to practice is in training; Never try anything new on race day!
Happy training 🙂