How to Fuel Your Race

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Prepare for your race with proper nutrition, hydration, and recovery.

Are you training for your local 10k? Maybe you have a half marathon in your sights or this is the year you finally committed to doing that sprint triathlon. Well, congratulations and welcome to the world of racing! If you’re cut from the same strain as many of us, you’re life will be forever changed…for the better.

I’ve been racing ever since I did my first 10k way back in the mid 90’s. In 2000 I did my first marathon and my first triathlon, 2001 was my first 12-24hr Adventure Race and I’ve been using racing to stay in shape ever since. I’m not a doctor or a scientist. I’m an endurance athlete and I’m going to share my real life experience with you so you can be successful from the start.

My goal for myself, and feel free to steal it if you like, is to race as long as I possibly can. Maybe you’ve read about the Frenchman who broke the hour record cycling around the track. His age group is 105+. You read that correctly. Robert Marchand rode 22.547km becoming the fastest many on two wheels in the over 105 age group. While I’m so happy he has set that goal, one of my goals is to break his record or whatever record is there by the time I’m in that age group. You get the idea, and again, feel free to join me because I’ll need some good competition.

Here are the key elements to race nutrition.

Before the Race:

Hydration – Pre-race hydration is much different than hydration during your race. Ultimately you want to be drinking enough fluid so that peeing is inconveniencing you. That’s right, if you’re not saying to yourself, “darn, I have to pee again!” you’re not drinking enough. Think of your body as a sponge. You want to soak up as much water, vitamins and minerals as you can the week leading up to the race.

The night before a race, I’ll have a great veggie dish with a little protein from fish or lentils. I’m not a meat eater, so fish a couple of times each month and eggs a couple of times each week is my current phase. That may change, but it’s working for me now.

Race Morning:

The morning of the race, I will wake up 2 hours prior to the race, have a big glass of water, and make myself an omelette with eggs, avocado, and a little cheese. I’m a low carb athlete, so I may have some nut butter if I feel like I need a little more substance. Then I’ll sip a hydration drink with electrolytes. You’ll want to make sure you’re not drinking too much on race day that will cause you to have to pee during the race. Finally, just before the race, I will drink an Energize. There are a lot of different sports nutrition companies that make pre-workout drinks. Most are fine, I prefer Beachbody Performance.

During the Race:

Hydration – You’ve heard it many times before, but if you don’t hydrate properly, you will fail. Here’s the problem, though, you cannot over hydrate yourself otherwise you get hyponatremia which is too much water. It flushes the electrolytes out of your system and you can die from it.

If you followed the pre-race plan, you can start your race and need nothing for the first 45 minutes. At that time you’ll want to start taking in small sips of water. If your race is under 2hrs water, maybe a little hydration fluid if it’s really hot, is all you need. If you’re a sugar burner eating gels during a two hour race, I recommend training yourself out of that dependency. When you train your body to burn fat you don’t need anything except water for a 2hr race.

If your race is 2-5hrs or more you’ll have to begin taking on solid foods in very small amounts. I’ll use some nut butter or a healthy bar and take small bites. A bar that have 20-25gms of carbohydrates will last me 2 full hours. I’ll eat that plus drink about 16oz of a water and hydration fluid combo. I have 2 options on the bike, one bottle with hydration and one just straight water. If I’m running and only have one water bottle or bladder, I will fill it with hydration fluid and use water provided by the race.

I recommend you stay away from sugary gels and caffeine until the last 30mins of your race. If you’re feeling fatigued and you only have a few miles to go, by all means take that double espresso chocolate gel!! It’s like rocket fuel and you’ve been going so hard that the 100 calories and 25gms of carbs won’t be detrimental to your health. You don’t want to take those early in the race because you’ll crash and become dependent on sugar and caffeine which can be horrific for your body.

After the Race:

Recovery – It’s arguably, the most important aspect of racing and training. If you don’t recover right, you’re either going to injure yourself because you’ll train again before you’ve fully recovered or you’ll race without being fully ready and your performance will suffer. The main point in recovery is sleep. If you can sleep at least 8 hours, you’re on the right track. Additionally, if you can consume 20gms of protein within 30 minutes of your workouts, you’ll also increase the benefits of your workout and help speed recovery.

There is new science that shows taking in some protein within an hour before you go to sleep will also speed your recovery. This was actually shown in elderly people who were given an Ensure type product. Doctors realized that they were healing more quickly overnight. Now a few companies have created products that help you. Recharge from Beachbody is a superb option and what I use when I’ve had a tough workout session.

Follow those few suggestions and you too will be racing healthy into and beyond 100 years old! Alright, obviously, I can’t make any claims like that, but what you just read works for me and it’s been working really well for a long time. You have to find out what works for you, but this is a good beginning. As always, please reach out if you have any questions. Find me @teddymcdonald on the social channels.

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Source: How to Fuel Your Race