I’m not one for enforcing strict, unbreakable rules when it comes to my diet or that of my health coaching clients, but there is one exception: In the 24 hours preceding a big race and during the race itself, I strongly enforce the rule Nothing New!”
The principle of “Nothing New” is simple: Consuming predictable food, drink and sports nutrition leads to being well-fueled, having predictable digestion and lowered risk of…ahem…digestive issues during the race. The risks of adventurous eating before and during a race are far outweighed by the benefits of eating a familiar diet.
Practically, “Nothing New!” starts with food eaten the day before the race. Over weeks, maybe even months, of training, my runners have tested out different lunch and dinner choices, and they know what digests well and makes them feel good the following day. If you know you’re traveling for your event, consider what your lunch and dinner options will be, and practice eating something similar. This is not the day to visit the cheese tasting festival, to try that new juice bar, or to discover the wonders of leafy greens for the first time.
“Nothing New!” also means that race morning, runners will eat the breakfast that they’ve practiced with on their long runs. It’s typically a breakfast with a great source of carbohydrate and not too much in the way of protein, fat or fiber, all of which take a long time to digest and don’t provide immediate fuel. It’s also eaten a couple hours, or longer, before the event. Do not try that new sugar-free syrup, taste chia pudding for the first time, or add a hard-boiled egg to the toast, peanut butter and banana that you’ve been eating all training season.
“Nothing New” means that my runners completing races longer than a couple hours will carry their own fuel on the course. They’ll only bring fuel that they’ve tested before, and they’ll take it at intervals that they’ve practiced. They won’t try that fancy goo or bar they picked up at the race expo, and they won’t rely on the course to provide fuel for them. For more on the broad selection of fueling options available at local running stores like Charm City Run, click here.
The best way to prepare yourself for the “Nothing New” rule and to ensure you’re fueled well with limited risk of digestive woes is to test and practice your eating and fueling strategies throughout your training. Pick a couple of your longest runs and use them as your dress rehearsal. If you’re running the Baltimore Marathon or another later fall marathon, the NCR 20 Miler this weekend is a great opportunity to rehearse race day conditions.
And if you’re stymied as to what you should be eating before and during your race for a great performance and a fun time on the course, consult a professional like myself.
About The Author: Lauren Shafer
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.