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Fueling for Race Day Performance

If you are what you eat, how do you eat your way to a great performance on race day?



A HUGE part of execution on race day is ensuring that your body has the right fuel to perform well. Don’t compromise months of training with a nutritional mistake!


Here are a few hints to help you nail your nutrition:


Prioritize carbs in the days leading up to racing. The ever popular “carb loading” is a little outdated, but it’s important to make sure that your glycogen stores are topped up. In the days leading into a race, make sure that all meals feature carbohydrates, and add an extra serving here and there. For example, have a bagel or some toast before bed.


Avoid fatty/greasy foods, fiber, and lots of veggies the day before a race. All of these can cause GI issues. If you’re traveling, save sampling the local cuisine for after the race.


Hydrate with electrolytes. You should always be in the habit of drinking water throughout the day, but drink a little more in the days leading up to a race, especially if you’re traveling. Electrolytes (like a Nuun tablet) will help you to absorb the water you drink.


Eat well on race day. If you race in the morning, have a small-medium sized breakfast that you know will sit well, aiming to finish it 1:30-2:00 before race time. Oatmeal, toast, and carbohydrate-rich bars are good options. Plan ahead so you aren’t scrambling on race morning!


If you race later in the day, have a solid breakfast and a light lunch or snacks, aiming to finish eating 1:00-2:00 before race time. Again, practice this in training.


Consider caffeine. Coffee can help us feel human AND research shows that it can improve endurance performance. That said, coffee can cause GI issues for some people.


Rehearse Rehearse Rehearse! Plan a race fueling strategy well in advance, and practice in training. Fueling with carbohydrates (ie gels) during training actually improves your stomach’s ability to absorb sugar! In any race longer than about 90 minutes, plan to take a gel, chews, or other carbohydrates at least every 45 minutes during the race. Different brands of gels use different sugars, so play around and see what works.


Refuel. Don’t forget to eat after your race! Bring a snack to the venue and refuel as soon as possible. This is especially important if you’re racing back-to-back days, or multiple times in a single day.


Practice makes perfect, and it’s SO important to practice fueling in training. Eat to win!


By Jessica O’Connell MSc, CSEP-CEP, OLY. Coach at Grit Coaching For more coaching advice, check out www.gritcoaching.net or visit our IG page @grit_coaching


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