Breakfast before a long training exercise or race is important for endurance athletes. Trying to figure out how much food to consume depends on a variety of factors including race distance, the weather, your size, metabolism, and other critical criteria.
Here are a few tips athletes should consider when fueling up for a race.
Load Up the Right Way
If done properly, carbo-loading can yield numerous benefits for endurance athletes (some athletes can eat a big meal the night before the race, while others may end up getting sick if they do that). You know your body best. Just remember that it’s called carbo-loading and not calorie-loading. You should increase your consumption of calories beginning a week prior to race day, but don’t go overboard. Make sure you are eating clean foods that aren’t processed, have organic/all-natural ingredients, and that don’t completely annihilate your stomach.
Eat Before the Race
Sports nutritionists recommend eating four hours prior to a race, but that’s most likely impossible with early hour race starts. If you eat oatmeal or pancakes 90 minutes to two hours before race time you’ll be okay. Feel free to add 100% Maple Syrup to your pancakes or on your oatmeal, but keep whichever you choose consistent throughout your training.
Prior to exercise, at least 80 percent of calories consumed should be carbohydrates – avoid protein until after the race. Carbs are important because the human body digests them rapidly, making them the ideal fuel source for athletes. Reduce your consumption of foods with fat and fiber, as you don’t want any stomach issues while racing.
If the weather is hot and you’re concerned about sodium intake, add a bit more salt to the pancakes or oatmeal while it’s being made.
Don’t Over Eat!
Too many athletes tend to make carbo-loading an all-you-can-eat food binge prior to races. Carbo-loading is important if you’ll be running distances of 10+ miles but you don’t need to go crazy trying to fuel up. If you eat too much or get too creative with your food selections, you can end up getting sick and feeling uneasy with race-day physical illness.
If you can’t stomach oatmeal or pancakes, try eating a bagel, which has a large number of carbs, digests easily, and likely won’t make you sick because it’s relatively bland. But that shouldn’t be all you eat, so make sure to include another carb-heavy snack you know your stomach can handle.
Don’t Forget the Fluids
With so much focus on eating, some athletes forget to hydrate, but drinking water before a race is important. Prior to a race, be sure to consume around 20 fluid ounces of water, with 200mg of sodium. Sports nutritionists recommend drinking a sports drink loaded with electrolytes leading up to the race. Again, don’t try to get too creative on race day– stick to what you’ve done in training, what you know your body can handle.
Bonus Tip: Remember, make sure you test your nutritional activities during training, so know what to expect come race day. Try to follow the same plan that has given you prior success, and don’t mix it up too much.
Athletes need to try a variety of different things and see what works best for each individual. You can get feedback from other athletes, but remember that everyone digests food differently during physical workouts. Focus on cleaning up your diet a few days prior to the race, and go carb-heavy the morning of the event. It’s going to take a bit of research and trial-and-error on your part to dial things in and get them ready for race day, so prepare accordingly during your training.
Have fun out there!