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Pre-race nutrition: tips for the week before

pre-race nutrition tipsWe all know the biggest rule when it comes to racing: don’t try anything new on race day or in the days leading up to the race. In other words, keep doing what you’re used to. One of the areas this applies to is nutrition.

However, fueling well the week before a race is crucial for a good performance. So, it pays to be extra careful about what goes into your mouth. Consider these tips:

Choose nutrient-dense foods, with focus on complex carbohydrates and protein. You don’t need to carbo-load before a race, but it’s important to build your diet around whole, nutrient-dense foods that are high in carbs and moderate in protein the week before a race. Think whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, and lean sources of protein. Taking in enough calories is key for feeling strong on race day. Be sure to pair nutrient-dense foods that are low in calories, like salads, with higher calorie foods – such as nuts and seeds.

Avoid foods high in fat. It’s OK to eat fried foods and indulgent desserts in moderation, but consuming these nutritional zeroes won’t do you any favors during race week. It’s better to fill up on healthy foods so you have energy.

Pay attention to your fluid intake. There’s no need to guzzle gallons of water before a race – doing so will only leave you feeling bloated. But it is important to be adequately hydrated when you line up at the start (learn more about hydration here). If the race day forecast calls for heat and humidity, make sure you hydrate with sports drinks, in addition to water, in the days leading up to the race. This will help keep your electrolytes balanced.

Cut back on alcohol. Even moderate amounts of alcohol can leave you feeling dehydrated, and one night of binge drinking can reduce blood flow to your muscles (more on alcohol and running performance). It’s best to save the champagne – or beer – for the celebration after the finish line.

Watch the fiber. Eating a huge salad with a slice of grainy bread and roasted veggies the night before the race is fine if you always eat that way. Otherwise, too much fiber can cause digestive issues on the run.

Eat most meals at home so you’ll know exactly what’s going into each dish. Restaurant fare tends to be high in sodium and fat, which can weigh you down. Also, be mindful of food safety practices when prepping meals – the last thing you need in the days before a race is food poisoning.

Know your body. The night before your marathon is not the time to get Thai or Mexican food if you know the cuisine doesn’t always agree with you. Don’t take any chances and avoid any problem foods for the week before the race. For example, I’m lactose intolerant but I can get away with eating some dairy from time to time. However, no cheese or ice cream crosses my lips in the few days before a race.

What are your race week nutrition rules?

Written by Jen Matz.

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