A simple nutrition mistake before a race can thwart months of dedicated training. To ensure your body is ready when the starting gun fires, avoid these racing don'ts:
One to two days before a race, begin to keep your food choices boring. Now is not the time to experiment. No matter what the latest running experts advise, if you didn't eat it during your training, don't start now. Wait until afterwards to get creative. Even simple switches like having an omelet instead of your usual oatmeal before a run can cause an unwanted stomach issue. The same applies with supplements: if you always used gels on your long runs, don't suddenly decide to try Swedish Fish. (See How Simple Pre-Race Eating Led to Chris Legh's Breakthrough.)
Milk, yogurt and other dairy products are mucus inducers, meaning they increase phlegm production. This can make you and your stomach uncomfortable when you're trying to run your heart out. If you know that dairy does not affect you in any way, you should be fine. But if you're unsure, avoid it 24 to 48 hours before a race.
As wonderful as it is in the morning for an energy boost, coffee can do more harm than good if you're not used to drinking it before a run. Coffee is a diuretic and therefore makes you lose water, which is clearly not a good thing for staying hydrated. On top of that, it also stimulate the muscles in the intestines, increasing the chance of a GI emergency mid-run. Save the cup of joe for when the race is over.
If your diet is already loaded with beans, grains and cruciferous veggies (like broccoli), you probably won't have much of an issue eating these foods prior to a race. However, if you're more of a meat eater, don't go with a mostly vegetable meal now. High fiber foods may cause gas, bloating or other undesirable GI issues.
The idea that runners should "carbo load" with a huge pasta dinner before a race is an old wives' tale. Our bodies have plenty of stored sugar already, so nothing "extra" is required. Eat a normal balanced meal with proper serving sizes and, again, stick with food you know your body handles well. A great pre-race dinner should include healthy protein, fats and carbs such as baked chicken served over a bed of quinoa.
On race day, eat something about 90 minutes before the start time. People differ in what they like to have on race day, but it should include some source of healthy carbohydrate. (See Time Your Fueling for Peak Performance.) Common pre-race meals include:
Everyone is different, so practice before race day to see what works best for you.
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