Nutrition is a critical aspect of running. It determines not just the health of the runner but also affects their peak performance. The nutrition of the runner has three aspects – before the run, during the run and after the run. If these three aspects are well-balanced then runners can expect to perform at their best all the time. Nutrition can never be taken lightly because it can make or break a runners performance on race day.
Runners need to feel fueled and not full or heavy before they start their run. During the run they need to ensure that their energy doesn’t flag and after their run, the food has to help in recovery. So what can you eat to ensure you are fueled with enough energy to carry you from start to finish.
Eating for a race
The best combination of foods is anything that has whole grains, lean meats, fruit, nut butter and yoghurt. So if you are running an early morning race, its best to try and fuel up with a protein shake or a simple chapati with peanut butter spread into it. While milk or a sugary electrolyte drink seems attractive, it would not really be the best nutrition before a race.
Carbohydrates need to take up at least 60% of your pre-race meal and whole grains give carbohydrate energy which lasts longer. Protein should form at least 20% of your meal component and the rest can be taken up by vitamins and minerals from vegetables and fruits.
During the run, if you are on a full marathon or an ultra-marathon race then you can consider sports gels, chews and protein bars to fuel you during the run. They are easy to consume and also light to carry. The post-race might seem like the best time to dive into oily and sugary food but neither would help in muscle recovery. Protein and carbohydrate-rich foods are important post the race as well. Bananas a great food to consume immediately after finishing your race. Caffeine, refined carbs, dairy foods, caffeine and low fibre foods are not the best choices for foods for any of the three nutrition windows for a marathon. Staying away from processed snacks before, during and after the race is extremely important to ensure you protect your body from fatigue and also aid in muscle recovery.
Water is another important component of running a good race. Ensure that you hydrate yourself before the race, you can sip on water while you run and also have the maximum amount of water post-run. Post-run don’t just gulp down the water, slowly sip it and you will feel less thirsty through the day. Ensuring you have enough water also helps in losing weight.
On race day ensure you check the course conditions. You might need to alter your nutrition according to the weather, for example, if you are in humid weather, you would tend to sweat more hence you need a plan to replace the lost salts as well.
The idea is to reach an optimum nutrition plan that matches your nutrition needs to ensure that you give your best performance on race day.