Tagged with 'nutrition'

Pre-Race Fuel for Runners

Whether you’re prepping for your first 5K race or your first marathon, getting proper nutrition should be one of the top priorities in your training regimen. After months of workouts and early morning runs, taking some time to create a great meal plan before race day will ensure that all your hard work will pay off. To help you get a better idea of which foods you should enjoy (and avoid), here are a few expert tips on how to choose nutrient-dense foods before, during, and after your race. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24 Hours Before Race Day

Even if you’re relatively new to running, you’ve probably heard of the phrase “carb-loading.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you should eat an enormous pasta dinner the night before your race and call it good. Treating yourself to such a heavy meal will likely cause you to wake up feeling bloated, uncomfortable, or even nauseous; in other words, definitely not a great way to start a race! 

Instead of “carb-loading” in one big meal, nutritionists advise getting carbohydrates from a variety of foods over a few days. You can begin adding more carbohydrates to your diet up to three days before your race to slowly build up your glycogen reserves and avoid “hitting the wall” on race day. Add one of these foods to each of your meals to boost your carb intake gradually:

  • Rice, oatmeal, quinoa, or pasta.
  • Baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.
  • Whole grain bread or tortillas.
  • Yogurt with granola.
  • Juice or sports drinks
  • Fruits and vegetables (just be aware of fiber content!).

3-4 Hours Before Your Run

The morning of race day should include a nutritious breakfast that’s low in fat, low in fiber, and high in carbohydrates. Avoid eating processed meats, such as bacon or sausage, and stay away from heavy foods like donuts and pastries until after your race. Foods like these can weigh you down and make you feel lethargic since your body has to work harder to digest fatty foods. Instead, opt for simple foods you’re familiar with, such as:

  • Toast or bagel with peanut butter.
  • Banana and a granola bar.
  • Oatmeal or low-fiber 
  • Eggs or yogurt.

During the Race

“If your race takes more than one hour, you’ll need to drink during it,” says Master of Human Nutrition and triathlete Kaisa Sali. She recommends taking small sips of water every 15-20 minutes, or at each aid station, in order to avoid dehydration. If you’ll be running a half or full marathon, Sali says it’s a good idea to take in anywhere from 30 to 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour, depending on the individual’s weight. These can be taken in by gels, sports drinks, bananas, or sports bars.

Post-Race

After you’ve crossed the finish line, it’s wise to grab a sports drink to help you replace fluid, proteins, and carbs. Snacks like recovery bars, milkshakes, smoothies, cold cereal, and chicken sandwiches are a few great options that can boost your energy and begin repairing damaged muscle tissues. Then, you can feel free to indulge in your favorite meal—you deserve it!

Balanced Nutrition for Runners

If you frequently work out, you might have heard the saying, “Healthy bodies are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.” Even if you’re a highly dedicated runner, you simply won’t be able to perform at your best if you don’t prioritize nutrition. You’re more likely to suffer from fatigue and uncomfortable muscle cramps, or you may even require longer recovery periods between workouts. 

If you think your diet has some room for improvement, this brief guide can help you create a balanced plan that won’t leave you feeling undernourished or overstuffed (while we dispel a few common nutrition myths). Here’s what you need to know:

Understand Your Calorie Needs

No matter whether you want to lose, maintain, or gain weight, it’s wise to know how many calories your body requires to keep you performing at your best. Runners often take their Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) into account to make sure they aren’t undereating. You can use a TDEE calculator to determine how many calories you need everyday based on your age, weight, height, activity level, and body fat percentage.

If you just want to know how many calories you burn during a workout, you can input your current weight, running pace, and duration of your workout into this handy calculator here. Just keep in mind that your caloric output can vary slightly depending on weather conditions, level of incline, gender, and other factors.

Keep Your Diet Interesting

If you find yourself throwing the same 12 items into your cart every time you go grocery shopping, you’re definitely not alone. It can be easy to get stuck in a rut when planning and preparing foods to fuel your workouts. Even if you always get “healthy” ingredients, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. In fact, depriving yourself of your favorite foods might even make cravings worse!

If you need some motivation to switch things up, try keeping a food journal for a week. This simple exercise can help you recognize where you need to make changes in your daily life. For instance, if you struggle to avoid high-calorie snacks at night, you might need to add more protein to your dinner or make healthier snacks ahead of time to avoid polishing off an entire bag of chips!

Add These Foods to Your List

If you’re getting tired of your current meal plan, consider picking up some of these superfoods suggested by Runner’s World:

 

  • Almonds. A small handful of almonds contains plenty of vitamin E, and they can decrease LDL cholesterol. 
  • Eggs. One egg can provide 10% of your daily protein needs and 30% of your vitamin K needs.
  • Sweet potatoes. Although one potato is a mere 100 calories, it packs in over 250% of the DV of vitamin A and contains good amounts of vitamin C, iron, and potassium.
  • Black beans. One cup of canned black beans will provide 30% of the DV for protein, and nearly 60% of your daily fiber and folate needs.
  • Dark chocolate. The antioxidants in dark chocolate can ease inflammation and have even been shown to improve heart health in some studies. Sweet!

Race Day Tips

Proper sleep, nutrition, and training are all important points of focus leading up to a race. You might have a specific meal plan or stretch regimen you follow on a daily basis to ensure you’ll deliver an optimal performance the day of the event. But in many cases, a structured training plan needs to be altered for race morning—or even race week. Follow these simple tips to feel as prepared as you can be by the time you approach the starting line.

 

Don’t be scared to warm up

So many runners—especially new runners—are worried that pre-race warmups will tire them out before the gun even goes off. The truth is that getting your heart rate up—even to the point of a light sweat—and making sure your joints are nice and loose will result in a better quality run. Don’t skimp on this part—do yourself a favor by prepping your muscles and going for an easy jog. And trust me, you won’t wear yourself out. If nothing else, you’ll have adrenaline on your side.

 

Don’t wait until race day to hydrate

It’s unrealistic--and unwise--to strictly apply every piece of advice for every race distance. For example, preparation and strategy for a marathon differs greatly from a 5K. However, as a general rule, it’s important to be well hydrated by the time you wake up on race day morning, which means it’s important to pay close attention to your water intake the week leading up to the race. If you try to guzzle a bunch of water that morning, you’ll run the risk of having to stop to use the bathroom or, at the very least, feel uncomfortable with too much liquid in your stomach. I personally take only a sip or two to wet my lips before any race and refrain from actually drinking water until afterwards. This no-water method might not work for you, so listen to your body, but do try to be hydrated prior to race day.

 

Hydrate smart

Whether you’re a runner or not, proper nutrition is important for making us feel our very best physically and mentally. A lot of runners are diligent about eating a balanced diet from a variety of food groups to make sure they have all of the necessary nutrients and fuel to perform their best. Fiber is an important component to any healthy diet, but when it comes to race day and the few days leading up to it, it could be beneficial to wean off your fiber intake. Fiber adds bulk to your stool and allows things to move quickly and efficiently. This isn’t necessarily a good thing when you’re going for a PR. Not to mention, fiber absorbs water, which can make you feel weighed down or even bloated. One method to avoid that would be to start decreasing your fiber intake the week of the race, and then on race morning, have something simple, light, and low fiber, such as toast and an egg. 

 

Make stretching secondary

Stretching is important in just about every sport. It’s beneficial to have loose, limber muscles in order to prevent injury. The type of stretching you do and the timing of your stretch session are key factors to consider, however, especially on race day. Your first priority shouldn’t be stretching—it should be your warmup. Getting your body and muscles warm through a jog and other light aerobic movements is crucial for a successful run. When you do begin to stretch, it should be dynamic—not static stretching. Static refers to holding particular positions in place, such as a maintained toe-touch hamstring stretch. Dynamic stretches, on the other hand, involve continued motion, such as high knee runs and leg swings. Static stretching is intended to increase range of motion over time, but if done with no warmup and cool muscles, it could do more harm than good and cause injury. Static stretching should be reserved for after the race.

 

Keep these tips in mind as you get ready for Big Dam Run 2K20! Sign up here!

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