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One of the biggest questions athletes have is what to eat before a big race or event. Whether it’s before, during or after the race, proper nutrition is essential for optimal performance. Not fueling correctly can reduce energy, concentration, and skill errors. It will also increase the risk of getting sick.
The days of carbo-loading with pasta and bread before race day are well behind us, however, carbohydrates are still very essential leading up to race day. Without going into too much detail, carbohydrates allow for higher glycogen stores in your muscles, and glycogen is your main source of energy. Therefore, eating a diet a bit higher in carbs the day before race day will allow you to top off your glycogen stores, making sure you have the most energy possible come race time.
That being said, there are different forms are carbohydrates to be aware of. Simple carbohydrates, such as pasta and white bread spike insulin levels and have little to no nutritional value. They are also extremely heavy and will often leave your stomach feeling heavy and your digestion system backed up. More importantly though, it will deprive your body of the essential nutrients needed for optimal performance. In addition to glycogen, your muscles require potassium, iron, magnesium and vitamin B6 to perform at its peak. These nutrients can be obtained by eating a variety of carbohydrates, especially colored ones such as vegetables and fruit.
Protein is essential for almost all the body’s functions, including repairing and building muscle tissues. However, unlike fat and carbohydrates, protein is not stored in the body for later use. Therefore, it is essential for athletes to be consuming protein in approximately equal amounts throughout their day in order to maintain proper body function.
Protein is composed of 20 amino acids, 9 of which cannot be made by the body and thus must be obtained through the diet. Protein sources which contain these 9 essential amino acids are called complete protein sources, and are naturally found in animal products, dairy products, and some plant foods like soy and quinoa. It is important to make sure protein sources are included in all meals consumed throughout the day, especially when training for a physically intense event.
As a rule of thumb, it is recommended that athletes consume about 1.0-1.2g of protein for lb of body weight. For those that struggle to meet their daily protein needs with food alone, supplementing with protein powder such as, Jaktrx Recovery, may be helpful.
Although healthy fats are an important part of our overall diet, eating high fat meals or snacks before exercising can compromise your workout. This is mainly because fat will slow digestion, leading the meal to sit in your stomach. If you eat a carbohydrate with a fat, you will not be able to use the glycogen from the carbohydrate for fuel as the addition of the fat will have slowed down the digestion of both to the point where the carbohydrate will no longer be a usable fuel source once digestion is complete.
When you train your body will be using all of its energy to fuel your muscles in order to maintain your activity level. As a result, little to no energy will be left over to digest the meal you ate prior to your race. This could leave you feeling bloated, nauseous and overall sluggish because your food will just be sitting in your stomach until you’re finished your workout.
This means you have to give your body enough time to digest before your event starts. If your race is in the morning then this may mean waking up a bit earlier to eat and then going back to bed for a bit. Give yourself a bit of a longer window than you normally would as you will more than likely be pushing yourself harder during a race then you would be in training!
The Best Things to Eat Before a Race
It will come as no surprise that the best sources of carbohydrates come from whole, unprocessed foods. Similarly, the most ideal sources of carbohydrates will have a low glycemic index which will result in a steady stream of glucose into your bloodstream as you digest them. Steady blood sugar will decrease your likelihood of becoming hungry during your race.
Below are a few of the best carbohydrate sources to have either the day before or the day of the race. Add a lean source of protein or a Jaktrx recovery protein shake and you should be adequately fueled for event.
Bananas are a great source of carbohydrates and natural sugars that make it ideal for pre-race fuel. Furthermore, bananas contain both potassium and magnesium, which are two of the electrolytes your body requires for running.
Rice has a low glycemic index, which means it will provide you with lasting energy. It is also a great source of energy, giving you around 45 grams of carbs per cup of rice. If having rice the night before, brown rice is a great option due to high nutritional value and high fiber. However, too much fiber right before a race is often a risk, so in that case I would stick to white rice.
Similar to rice, rolled oats contain a high amount of carbs and a low glycemic index. They sit in the stomach a bit longer than rice and bananas do, however, so if having a bowl of oatmeal prior to your race make sure you give it a bit longer to fully digest.
During the Race
If the race lasts over an hour, there is a chance that your muscle glycogen stores will depleted. In this case intra-carb supplements are required to instantly replace the used glycogen. This type of carb supplement, such as Jaktrx Carbotic, will provide rapid fuel to help you finish your race with the same energy you started with. Carbotic also contains key electrolytes as well as no artificial flavours or colours.