Week 15: What should you be eating in the days before the big race?
I often get asked for advice on what to eat in the days before a big race and on the race day itself, so here are some tips on how you can ensure your body is fully fuelled for the Bank Holiday Monday so that you can put in your best performance.
The days before
Increasing your carbohydrate intake in the meals prior to race day will help top up your energy stores, but don't overdo it as this can result in feeling heavy and lethargic. My advice is to stick to your normal meal size, but gradually add a little extra, good-quality, slow-release carbohydrates (such as porridge, quinoa or sweet potato) in the meals 48 hours prior to the event.
The 24 hours before a race is a key period in terms of nutrition. It is important to fuel and hydrate your body correctly but keeping things simple is of paramount importance, as well as sticking to foods you know.
It's not all about carb loading, add plenty of vegetables to your meals. Again, if you're not used to eating a lot of vegetables, make sure to start with small amounts and build up gradually.
On the big day
The morning of the race can be a tricky time. Nerves, anxiety and travel can have an effect on your appetite. However, it is very important that you eat a balanced breakfast, particularly as you won't have another big meal until after the race. If you don't feel like eating, try a smoothie with oats (check out the 2015 Vhi Women's Mini Marathon app or www.vhiwomensminimarathon.ie for the full recipe).
As many of you might be traveling from afar, make sure you are well prepared and bring plenty of snacks and, of course, water. High-energy snacks such as bananas, dried fruit and snack bars are ideal to have in your race bag.
The race starts at 2pm, so you'll probably get hungry between breakfast and the start line. To avoid this, aim to have one of your high-energy snacks at around 12pm.
I can't stress enough the importance of hydration. If the weather is very warm on the day, try an electrolyte sachet, which is a great way to replace essential salts and minerals lost in sweat.
As Dr May highlighted in an earlier article, it's important not to over-hydrate on the day and that is why I would put the emphasis on hydrating gradually and consistently in the days leading up to the race. So, to conclude, my top tips are…
• Plan meals and meal times ahead of the event.
Keep things simple - don't try new foods in the days before
• Carb loading - gradually increase carbohydrate intake in the days before, but remember, don't overdo it
• Don't dramatically increase the size of your "night before" dinner or "morning of" breakfast
• Be prepared - keep snacks at the ready in case hunger strikes in the hours pre-race
• Good snack options - bananas, dried fruit, snack bars and rice cakes
• Hydration - hydrate well in the days prior to, and on the morning of, the race. The key is to drink when thirsty when you are running rather than consuming large amounts of water immediately
• Warm weather - include an electrolyte drink or a pharmacy bought sachet (eg. Dioralyte or ORS tablets) and don't forget your sunscreen!
Well done on getting this far, now there's less than two weeks before you can enjoy the 2015 Vhi Women's Mini Marathon!