What to eat on the day of a race is very important, as it can make a few hundredths of a second difference; at the top level, this could be the difference between an Olympic medal and nothing. Without wanting to get too technical and in depth, there are some basic goals we want to achieve with our race day nutrition:
- Reduce bodyweight as much as is safe to do so
- Avoid excessive dehydration
- Have optimal levels of energy
- Have good gut comfort / avoid bloating
- Accelerate recovery
To reduce bodyweight as much as is safe to do so, I follow a low fibre diet in the few days before, in order to reduce stomach and bowel content. I will also eat easily digestible foods in this time period, such as chicken (instead of beef) and white rice (instead of brown rice / sweet potato). I will also attempt to run slightly dehydrated. I do this by monitoring my urine volume and colour- I want to reduce volume as much as possible and have a slightly darker colour than usual. I don’t want to be excessively dehydrated though, and so will sip on electrolyte drinks throughout the day.
In order to have optimal energy levels, I tend to eat higher carbohydrate foods, and more of them, the day before and day of competition. This ensures that glycogen stores are fully replenished, which increases energy and improves mood. I have also experimented with caffeine, and other nootropic agents, such as tyrosine. During my warm up, and immediately after my race, I consume carbohydrate gels and bars to keep glycogen levels topped up.
To ensure gut comfort, it is important to avoid foods that might upset the stomach such as spicy foods. Eating a fast-digesting diet may also reduce the need to go to the toilet, especially as the pre-race nerves begin to kick in.
To accelerate recovery, immediately after my competition I have a protein-carbohydrate drink, and follow this up later with a high protein, high-carb meal. I will also try to increase my fruit and vegetable intake post-race in order to get more vitamins and minerals into my over-worked body.
This is a quick over-view of some of the strategies I use on race day. I could get more advanced with telling you some of the things I do and take, but maybe another time. What is your race-day nutrition like? What works and doesn’t work for you?