You’ve been logging miles all summer training for the Charles Street 12 miler. With the race just a few days away, the time to build strength and speed is behind us, and now it’s time to recover and prepare our bodies for a strong race. Nutrition should be a part of that preparation; do you have a plan to eat well this week?
The following are my five rules for race week nutrition leading up to the 12 miler:
1. Nourish yourself.
Promote recovery this week by incorporating plenty of whole fresh foods in your meals and snacks. Vegetables, including plenty of leafy greens, and fresh seasonal fruit should make up a good part of your diet, as should whole grains, good sources of lean protein, beans, seeds and nuts. Instead of fast food lunches, why not pull all these healthful items together into giant, tasty salads? Arugula, baby spinach and kale make a nutritious base. Top it with a protein, fresh fruit, a low-sugar whole grain granola full of nuts and seeds in place of croutons and dress it with olive oil and vinegar for a powerfully nutritious lunch!
2. Hydrate well.
I frequently hear two questions regarding hydration:
What’s the best drink for hydration?
There’s no need to swig sports drinks or artificially sweetened or “enhanced” waters. Plain filtered water is the best fluid to hydrate with in the days preceding your race. If you need to add some kind of flavor, try adding lemon, lime or cucumbers rather than artificially-sweetened additives.
How much water do I need to drink each day for good hydration?
There is no perfect prescription for the exact number of ounces of water you must drink to stay hydrated. The amount depends on the weather, your activity level, how much you tend to sweat and how much water-containing food such as fruits, vegetables and cooked grains you eat. Your pee tells the real story: If it’s very light yellow, you’re in good shape. Darker yellow to brown and you may be under-hydrated.
Staying well-hydrated doesn’t begin on the race course. It begins in the hours and days before your race, so begin considering hydration now.
3. No need to carb load, but DO include some carbs.
Sorry to rain on your pasta party, but there is no benefit to carb loading for a 12 mile race. That said, you don’t want to skimp on carbohydrates in the couple of days before your race. A carb-rich meal two nights before the Charles Street 12—that means Thursday night--will be converted to stored carbohydrates in time for your race. You could include potatoes or yams, whole grains and breads or pasta in reasonable portions at that meal, and you’ll also want to include some protein.
The morning of your race, eat a breakfast that includes a decent source of carbohydrates. Common race day breakfasts include toast with a smear of peanut butter, oatmeal and a banana, rice or a bagel. Most practiced runners avoid consuming eating a lot of fat, fiber and protein on race morning, all of which take a long time to digest, and none of which provide immediate fuel. Of course that breakfast must follow rule number four.
4. Nothing new!
There is a hard and fast rule for the 24 hours preceding a running event: eat nothing new! Predictable meals the day before and day of your race will lead to predictable energy, not to mention predictable digestion and elimination. The risks of adventurous eating during this period far outweigh the benefits, so stick to the tried and true pre-race dinner and long run breakfast that worked well during your training.
5. Eat to recover after the event.
Once you cross the finish line, remember that the food you eat will either promote a quick recovery or drag it out slowly. It’s fine to celebrate your achievement by eating a slice of pizza or having a beer or two, but to set your body up for optimal healing, quickly resume a diet full of fresh, whole foods in the days ahead.
If you need support on creating a healthy diet to support your active lifestyle, consult a professional like me for support. Have a great race!
About The Author: Lauren Shafer, Empowered Eating Expert
Lauren is a certified Health Coach who helps busy Baltimoreans articulate their health + wellness goals, and make measurable, sustainable diet and lifestyle changes for lasting transformation. Though she would never be described as athletic in her youth, Lauren started running as an adult, begrudgingly at first, until she discovered she actually enjoyed it. Now an 8-time marathoner and 3-time ultra-marathoner, you’ll frequently find Lauren running on roads and trails with her husband John and dog Osita.