In case you didn’t know already, the core focus of the OORR philosophy is to make the world a better place. One obvious way we do this is by creating apparel for you to enjoy and use at the highest level, with a lower environmental impact.
However, in this paper we take a narrower focus, and zero in on pre-race nutrition to help you meet your individual goals. By focusing on ‘Clean’ eating, we can achieve positive outcomes in-line with OORR philosophy – delivering better results for both you, and the planet.
To help put together this paper we spoke with a cross-section of high achieving athletes, thought leaders and nutrition experts and gave them an open brief to share with us their pre-race food habits.
We’ve included excerpts from each of our contributors below, but if you’re hungry for more dive straight in and download the full piece (including an exclusive tasty smoothie recipe from Apex Nutrition's Kelli Jennings)!
Steph Lowe from The Natural Nutritionist started us off with some serious education;
"When it comes to sports nutrition, there is a wealth of information available to us. Unfortunately much of this is information can be misleading, conflicting and driven by multi million dollar sports nutrition companies and marketing campaigns that recommend dogmatic carbohydrate guidelines that lead to reliance on endogenous fuel sources and depleted energy.
Just like we once thought the world was flat and saturated fat was the cause of heart disease, carbohydrate loading is not necessary to maximize performance. Here’s why:
- In short, endogenous fuel stores from carbohydrate are limited. We have between 1600-2000 calories of muscle glycogen and even at 10% body fat, 72,000 calories, or 40 times that amount of energy stored in adipose tissue. The more fat adapted you become, the more you can tap into an almost bottomless energy reserve. On race day, this means less fuelling, less gut upset and minimal chance of “hitting the wall”, or the extreme case of glycogen depletion all-too-common in endurance competition.
- Focus on your training and your post-training fuel replenishment. Top up your glycogen stores by all means, but to prevent a strong insulin response and therefore optimize growth hormone levels for both recovery and adaptation of muscles, please stick with 30-45 grams of carbohydrates. You don’t need six slices of white bread, Gatorade or Up & Go!
- Muscle glycogen stores are limited, and just like a sink that is full, the excess overflows. And where does it go? Fat storage. Or if you’re lucky, it gets eliminated via your bowels. Regardless, every gram of glycogen carries two grams of water, so you’re most likely going to put on some form of weight and even if it is water weight, you definitely don't need the extra kilograms with you on the course."
But Steph isn't the only expert recommending Fat Adaptation, as Steve Oxlade - a two time International Masters X-Fit Champion - is keen for people to rethink how they fuel up as "When you train your body to burn fat instead of sugar you can get virtually unlimited stores of energy, especially for longer distance events, whereas sugar burners have only a limited sugar/glycogen store which gets fast depleted.
You can train your body to burn fat in a matter of weeks by intermittent fasting (eating all your daily meals within a 6 hours time-period, giving your body 18 hours to rest and burn fat) and eating no sugar/carbs. You can drink as much pure water as you want inbetween, and during competition."
Paralympic medallist Matt Levy OAM,
(Change Analyst/Paralympic Athlete/Motivational Speaker)
likes to keep it lean pre-race too, favouring berries, and beetroot juice.
Meanwhile, Rebecca Charlton TV presenter, journalist, cycling commentator & event host conveys her message by sharing her journey to cleaner eating, and some sound advice.
"There was a time when I would throw on my race kit straight after a day of presenting, ride over to a crit race and grab whatever I could get my hands on to eat on the way, which would often be a chocolate bar and a coffee.
At the time I didn’t give much thought to it but I would end up feeling like I’d been punched in the stomach towards the closing stages of the race. You can put all the training and dedication in ahead of a race day but competing in discomfort can undo all that preparation. Adopting positive eating habits and pre-race rituals can allow you to develop a routine that you know works for you."
Kate Strong (2014 AG World Champion in long-distance triathlon) also advocates clean eating - as a solution to peak performance and a boosted immune system. We love how structured Kate is in her preparation, and her advice on mental preparation.
"Food is the foundation to my training and I eat to maximise the benefits of what I eat and minimise any negative side-effects.
Two weeks prior to a race, I start increasing the volume and variety of fresh vegetables on my plate - I want to boost my immune system and be in prime health.
Three days prior to my event, I double the volume of nuts, in particular brazil and walnuts. I also load up on whole-grain foods and squeeze out any processed foods I might still be eating (so no pasta or bread during this period).
In this period, I remind myself that the training has been done, and there’s no short-term gains I can make so close to a race. I want to focus on staying in optimal health and reduce any possibility of a cold or low energy."
Lastly, OORR’s first ever sponsored multi-sport professional Athlete, Emma Pooley provided her perspective -
"So… clean eating! I have to be honest and say that I’m not entirely sure how the term “clean eating” is defined! But I am pretty keen on a few principles of diet that I think of as “clean” or at least healthy - for the body, mind, and conscience.
Over years of racing and trying various diets and many synthetic bars and gels and sports drinks, I’ve become more and more a fan of simple real food. I’m convinced that many “sports food” products are simply expensive artificial ways to get the nutrition that is cheaper and better for the environment from simple real food - and tastier!
I love good food, and I hate taking in so many calories from over-processed synthetic sources which don’t even taste very good. Skimmed milk is also an excellent recovery drink all on its own (even better with honey or chocolate powder!)."
We hope you get as much value from this paper as we did by writing it, and would love to hear your story. If you implement any of these recommendations, please write to us, share your story on social media, and contribute to this conversation around clean eating. We’d love to keep learning with you. Got a great recipe of your own? OORRsome – send it through. We would love to compile them and publish a collection from the readers soon!