Nutrition Tips for race day by Dietician Rowena Curr

Posted on May 23, 2009 under Nutrition | No Comment

Your main nutrition goals for raceday, are to maintain your carbohydrate and fluid stores. This is vital if you would like to optimize your performance, or you just want to avoid “hitting the wall” (i.e. feeling of extreme fatigue, legs of lead, dizziness and confusion – obviously not ideal for any runner hoping to finish).

Dietician Rowena Curr RD (SA) compiled these following helpful tips:

  • The most important thing for raceday, is never to do something for the first time. Make sure that you have your nutrition strategies worked out, and have practiced them as part of your longer training runs or races leading up to Comrades.
  • Unless you have a second that will be providing you with everything you need on the day – practice with the drinks and food that will be available on raceday at the seconding tables.
  • Ideally your pre-race meal should be eaten about 3 hours before the start. However, if this is not possible you can eat a smaller meal 1-2 hours before (this just depends on your usual rate of digestion – make sure you practice, practice, practice!). Whatever you choose to eat must be high in carbohydrate, low in fat, low or moderate in protein, and low in fibre (this is to prevent any discomfort – fat and protein take longer to leave the stomach than carbohydrate). Suitable foods include breakfast cereals or porridge with low-fat milk or yoghurt, toast with jam/syrup/peanut butter, or banana and peanut butter sandwiches.
  • If you struggle to eat solids before a race, it is a good idea to take in something liquid (e.g. liquid meal replacement, fruit smoothie or just an energy drink). Just ensure that you have a substantial meal the night before.
  • Sip on a sports drink in the 2 hours leading up to the start (just allow time to go to the toilet!)
  • Make use of sports drinks during the race – they are very useful to meet both carbohydrate and fluid needs at the same time. Diluted coke also works well.
  • Start drinking early on in the race (within the first 30 minutes). Avoid waiting until later in the race, as you will be more likely to “hit the wall”, and it will be difficult for you to recover.
  • Fluid requirements differ from runner to runner, and are determined by sweat rate, exercise intensity, environmental temperature, humidity, body surface area, gender, and genetics. For this reason, it is important to experiment in training, in order to work out your own fluid requirements, and to prevent both dehydration and overhydration.
  • General hydration advice is to drink little and often. You should aim to drink ad libitum between 400-800ml per hour, with the higher rates for the faster, heavier runners and the lower rates for the slower runners/walkers. If conditions are warm, you will need more fluid as opposed to running in cooler conditions.
  • Aim to take in 30-60g of carbohydrate per hour. Most sports drinks will provide 30-60g in 500-1000ml. Gels contain approximately 30g per gel (make sure you drink 250-350ml water per gel). Most sports or cereal bars contain 20g, 3 baby potatoes contain 15g, 5 jelly babies contain 15g, 1 large banana contains 20g, ½ jam/marmite sandwich contains 15g, and 4 dried apricots contain 15g.

Author Dietician Rowena Curr RD (SA) is a private practicing dietician at the Kings Park Sports Medicine Centre in Durban and at the Victoria road medical centre in Pietermaritzburg. She has a postgraduate degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from UCT as well as an honours degree in Sports Science from the University of Stellenbosch. She has represented South Africa as a junior and elite triathlete and currently competes in various triathlons and multisport events. Rowena Curr can be contacted via 082 4257234 or via e-mail.

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