4. Nutrition & Hydration Around Races

Jim Maxwell’s Advice:  Nutrition and Hydration Around Races

Athletes face many challenges to properly eat and hydrate in preparation for races. Cross country meets may be after school or on weekends with the race early in the day.   You may need to drive a long way to get to the race. The challenge is to develop a habit of eating and drinking correctly no matter the logistics of the race day.

Drinking"Don't get behind on your fluids."  You need to drink quality fluids, all the time, but specifically on race day. Carry a water bottle with you to class or in the car and sip all day long. Drink about 12 to 16 ounces 1 to 2 hours before you will race. After that sipping is best. Urine color should be lemonade like. Sports drinks offer carbohydrates(sugars) and electrolytes and are an excellent choice. After racing, recovery drinks offer fluids and nutrients to help your body recover. Protein to carbohydrate ratio of 1 to 4 is best.There are many quality brands.In addition, Chocolate milk, (or soy milk) are excellent recovery drinks. Don't just drink your post race recovery, EAT real food.

Eating. Three areas to focus on are, 1, the day before, 2 the pre race eating, and 3, recovery eating after the run / race.

The day before racing you need to eat like you always eat, meaning don't change anything major, don't order something at a restaurant you have never tried. A good rule, "Don't change anything around race day, stick with what has worked in the past"

Pre race eatingAfternoon racing. Eat a big breakfast, with some protein and quality fats, and of course, carbohydrates. The protein and fats will take longer to digest and help fuel you into the afternoon. Lunch should be light eating no closer than 2 to 3 hours before your run. Limit protein and fats at this meal, as you want your system basically finished digesting by race time.

One hour prior to your race eat a sports bar, (Not one listed as a recovery bar, too much protein), fruit ( banana, apple, raisins), bagel (no cream cheese this time). You want a small amount of carbohydrates so you don't feel hungry, but that will move quickly into your system. Drink  6  to 8 ounces with this snack, and plan to have your last bathroom stop soon after.

If you are racing in the morning, the most important eating was the day before. Eat as soon as you can after getting up, hopefully 2 to 3 hours before running. Eat mostly carbohydrates, very little protein and fats as they will still be in your digestive system for several hours.Again follow the guideline for the last hours before racing that I talked about for afternoon racing.

Post race recovery eating. (Don't forget to drink with your post race eating. Eat real food as soon as your body can eat, and not feel upset. Carbohydrates should be eaten within 30 to 45 minutes after exercising, this is a "window in time " that facilitates the refueling of muscle glycogen. (Glycogen is the main fuel of all muscle activity). Recovery eating should also include protein. We break down muscle cells when we do physical activity, we need to eat protein to provide the building blocks for muscle recovery.

A brief look at our physiology. Blood flows to where the body needs it. Exercising muscles require lots of blood flow. Your stomach system (guts, ... technical term) require blood to move and digest food. These two things don't work well together.Time your eating to allow for digestion and absorption, then run / race.

See you on the trails. 

Jim Maxwell

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