With race day just around the corner, it's time to start planning your race day nutrition strategy. PURE Sports Nutrition co-founder and qualified sports and exercise nutritionist, Marewa Sutherland, takes you through quick-fire tips to keep yourself properly fueled on race day. Read on and be on your way to a successful day out...
Prep your race day food
Often it’s not until we get underway in our event that we realise the logistical nightmare to get to our nutrition! Make things easier for yourself by having supplies within reach. Pre-open any food in packages and cut into bite-sized portions, this will also help the feeding frequently cause. Placing your food into zip-lock plastic sandwich bags keep them fresh and easily accessible (although it’s a good idea if you’re on a bike to keep the zip-lock open for ease of access). Consider a bento box (a food storage holder) if you’re on a bike, or a hydration belt with storage compartment if you’re running.
Plan your carbohydrate intake. Aim: 30-90g per hour
Muscles predominantly rely on carbohydrates to fuel exercise. If your carbohydrate aim is over 60g per hour ensure that your carbs come from a mix of sources so your body is able to absorb the high quantity. For example glucose/sucrose (PURE Electrolyte Hydration, lollies), maltodextrin (PURE Energy Gels), fructose (fruit) and more complex carbohydrates (real food options).
Feed early & consistently
It’s very important you place a priority on your nutrition during your race to ensure you are at peak performance. Our bodies have adequate reserves for the first hour or so of exercise, however, the quicker you begin to refuel the less likely fatigue will hit like a freight train, so start within the first 15-20 minutes of the event. Evenly spread your hydration and food needs over each hour to ensure a consistent supply of fuel. Too many athletes, including elite athletes, get their nutrition wrong on race day simply by not planning ahead and not prioritising it during the race. Do you usually forget to eat or drink until it’s too late? Set repeating 15-20 minute alarms on your watch to avoid race distractions and help cement this habit. Even if you're not hungry or thirsty during your race, keep fueling up to keep your nutrition plan on track.
Mix up your fuel
Ever struggled to eat your normal nutrition on race day? Race day nerves, intensity and environmental conditions can all effect digestion and make it challenging to meet your nutrition targets. Fluids are a great way to obviously hydrate but also reach your carbohydrate aims. Also ensure your nutrition plan includes a mix of fuel types (gels, bars, real food options etc) and flavours so you can adapt it if required.
- Read our article on How to Select Fuel for Training & Race Day for race day food ideas.
Watch the weather
Plan your fuel around the forecast weather on race day. On hot or humid days, we can get a higher proportion of our fuel from sports drinks simply by prioritising hydration. In these conditions, you may also require more electrolytes to account for a higher sweat rate and to prevent cramp. In contrast on cooler days, hydration needs will be lower so it's likely a higher percentage of energy will come from food choices. Remember if you are planning to race in hot conditions then to start prioritising hydrating in the days leading up to race day.
In events over 2 hours protein begins to play an important role, this is where adding protein into your race day nutrition plan can be a real game changer, particularly in staged events and to support fast recovery. There are a number of good options to incorporate protein into your race day nutrition, including the PURE Endurance Hydration drink range and bars/food that are high in carbohydrates but also offer protein. Check the nutritional panel of your food to better understand what it offers.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Hydration can be easily overlooked but has a strong link to fatigue. Get to know your hydration status by weighing yourself before and after training sessions. If you are losing weight then it’s most likely you’re not adequately hydrating, which can have major impacts on performance. Fluid requirements vary a lot (temperature, size, gender, fitness level etc) but a general rule of thumb is 500ml - 750ml an hour. Regardless of the weather, aim for a minimum of 500ml per hour.
Keep your core cool
Our body temperature is closely linked with fatigue so on hot days add plenty of ice to your sports drink bottle or hydration pack to effectively cool your body from the inside out. Cold hydration is naturally more appealing when we exercise so you are more likely to meet your fluid requirements.
Take extraAlways anticipate longer race times, and take extra fuel accordingly. I have met countless numbers of athletes who have rocketed through races only to hit that dreaded wall and have nothing left to eat or drink to get through it. Or someone loses their nutrition on course (falls out of clothing or off the bike) and they have no extras left in their transition or support bags. Even a gel or a few sweat covered jet plane lollies can save the day (depending on the length of event of course!).