Race season is upon us. You’ve probably spent a lot of time training your body, whether you’re trying to beat your last marathon time or you’re participating in a 5K for the first time. But running your best race requires more than physical training. How you care for your body and what you feed your body is also crucial. So we asked Dr. Angela Hind to share her best tips to help you prep your body for the race.
Before the Race
- Eat every 2 to 3 hours, focusing on a well-balanced diet of larger meals and healthy snacks for the two days before the race.
- At each meal, eat 30% of your total calories from healthy fats, like those found in avocados, coconut and olive oils, high omega-3 eggs, and organic butter or ghee, and 20% of the calories from high-quality proteins, such as nuts, organic meats and legumes. The remaining calories should come from healthy carbohydrates such as organic whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Avoid eating within 4 hours of bedtime so your body can concentrate on repairing and deeply resting, instead of digesting food.
- Start hydrating the night before the race. The average person needs roughly half their body weight in ounces of fluids each day. Exercising daily and outside temperature increases the need to hydrate.
On Race Morning
- Eating on race morning is only to stave off hunger and provide a small boost of blood sugar levels. Avoid fats and fiber which are hard to digest, as well as refined sugar, processed food, chocolate and caffeine.
- Two hours before the race eat a meal balanced with protein and carbohydrates. A nut butter, fruit, and non-dairy milk smoothie is a good option, as is a coconut yogurt, fruit and granola parfait.
- Sip 16 ounces of water for 2 to 3 hours before the race, and stop drinking 30 minutes before start time. Ease off at any time if you feel any water sloshing around in your stomach.
At the Race
- Avoid sugar, caffeine, and fructose-containing sports drinks before or during the race. These can be hard on the stomach and may even deplete your energy.
- Warm up before the race by jogging a couple of short laps around the parking lot or in a field. This will warm up and prepare your tendons and ligaments for pre-race stretching.
- Pay attention to your body’s hydration needs. If you’re running a short race, like a 5K, you may not need to drink during the event. For races longer than one hour, you should drink 4-8 ounces of fluid every 30 minutes. (One large gulp of water is roughly equivalent to one ounce.)
- For longer races, or races in higher temperatures, you might want to supplement your water with carbohydrates and electrolytes – particularly sodium, magnesium and potassium.
After the Race
- Hydrate immediately with 16 ounces of fluid. Use electrolyte-enhanced water after a long race or prolonged exercise in heated temperatures.
- Consume protein and carbohydrates in the 30 minutes following the race. This is your body’s opportune time to efficiently digest and use these nutrients. A good post-race snack is a sweet potato and salted nuts, or raw nuts and fruit.
- Thoroughly stretch and use ice for 1 to 2 minutes on any area that is sore.
- Rest and eat high-quality foods for the remainder of the day so your body can recover.