How to Fuel Your Body Before a Big Race
Do you have a race day nutrition strategy? You should.
We get that pre-race anxiety can be enough to make you lose your appetite or queasy enough to want to skip eating entirely. However, what you eat and don’t eat has an enormous impact on your performance, especially on race day.
Following a sound nutrition plan in the months or weeks leading up to the big race is highly recommended. Practicing your race day nutrition strategy during training is crucial. Why? You need to know for sure that your stomach can tolerate the specific sodium and carb loads you intend to fuel up with.
The last thing you want is to shock your body the day before and the day of by suddenly eating foods and drinking beverages, no matter how healthy, that are new to your body. An upset stomach, and bowels in overdrive could potentially ruin everything you’re training so hard for.
Know your own body.
Everyone’s body is different; what your fellow cyclist’s digestive system is accustomed to may not be something your body can tolerate. Certain foods may cause discomfort and indigestion; they may run right through you, resulting in suddenly needing to leave the course to relieve yourself.
How to fuel up for race day
There’s a rule of thumb that your last meal should be three to four hours before the start of the race. Because most, if not all, races are day races, that means having a high-carb breakfast with some protein. Think along the lines of Coconut yoghurt with fruit and Chia Pudding, and a plate of smashed Avocado with spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes on GF toast. And if coffee is your go-to drink to enhance performance and endurance, you can’t forget that!
Knowing what time the race starts is also crucial to your training. In the days leading up to the competition, you should align your training, mealtimes, and sleeping hours with the race schedule.
For the Race Itself
There are two factors to remember when ensuring you have sufficient fuel on race day – consuming enough calories to meet your expenditure and understanding your fluid intake needs. Let’s dive in.
There is a rule of thumb for the number of calories an athlete can consume per hour, and that is 1 gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per hour. One gram of carbs is four calories. Following this rule, a 60 kg athlete should aim to consume around 60kg x 4 calories = 240 calories per hour.
However, remember that how many calories you expend has NOTHING to do with how much you weigh. The number of calories one 60kg athlete requires each hour can be very different to what another 60kg athlete requires. It depends entirely on how hard you push; the harder you go, the more calories you'll burn.
The goal is to know how to bridge the gap between expenditure and intake.
Let’s say you have an average heart rate of 145 beats per minute at an intensity that expends 650 calories per hour for 5 hours and 30 minutes on the bike. If you maintain that intensity, you will see a calorie expenditure of 3575 calories.
Ultimately, your stomach and its unique digestive capabilities governs the rate of calories you can physically process. During your training sessions, try to simulate race intensity to learn how many calories your stomach can tolerate per hour. You may find that you tolerate some forms of energy better than others. Many athletes for example can't tolerate gels all day, and save them for the final few hours.
Next is fluid.
Knowing the weather conditions you are likely to experience on race day gives you an indication of how much fluid to consume based on how much you are likely to lose.
Never lock yourself into a set volume of fluid, as the amount you need to drink is based on how much sweat you are losing. Prescribing a fixed volume of fluid without factoring in the weather conditions is a mistake many athletes make.
In cooler conditions, your sweat rate will be lower, and so will the amount you need to drink. In warmer conditions, your sweat rate will be greater, and you will need a greater volume of fluid to minimize the percentage of loss. Drinking too much in cooler conditions can have a similar impact on your performance as not drinking enough in warmer conditions.
If you want to go deeper into training and race day nutrition download the full article on Managing Illness and Injury through Training and Competition, where the experts from shotznutrition.com outline their strategies for getting the most out of your race day nutrition, so you can perform at your best.
In addition, 8 other experts talk about illness, injury prevention, and recovery. We provide technical data on the importance of managing nutrition and electrolytes in both training and race day to ensure you don’t lose steam halfway through the competition.
Download the full guide, CLICK HERE