Proper nutrition is such an instrumental component of performance, yet is overlooked by 90% of the racers at the starting line. A few years back, a research project associated with human performance (equipment, altitude training, endurance training, strength training, etc.), revealed that the most powerful influence on performance was attributed to hydration and nutrition habits. Nail your nutrition and the results were stellar; miss your nutrition (even by a little) and the results were devastating.
After spending the last six to eight months training for your big race, the last 24 hours should be quite simple – exercise lightly, hydrate properly and eat correctly (quality & quantity).
With proper nutrition, you can offset the negative effects of fatigue in three ways:
Muscle Glycogen Depletion
Muscle glycogen is the major energy source during training and especially racing. When your sugar storages (in your liver and muscles) are depleted, your ability to go fast for any period of time will be diminished.
Decreased Blood Sugar Levels
Blood sugar is the major fuel for the brain (from your liver) and muscles during training and racing; the higher the intensity, the quicker your body depletes itself of sugar.
When a muscle becomes dehydrated by as little as 3%, that muscle can lose between 10-20% of its contractile strength and also incurs an 8% loss of speed.
Proper nutrition is all about topping of your body’s natural fuel tanks (muscles and liver) to ensure that you have enough stored energy to finish your race strong. By choosing the correct foods at the correct times, you can delay the onset of fatigue on race day (as outlined below).
Day before a Race (8 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight) – Consume six to eight small meals distributed throughout the day approximately two hours apart. Choose items made from high quality carbohydrate sources: real food smoothies, brown rice, pasta, quinoa and dark breads. Convenient snacks include fresh fruit and high quality energy bars (the Paelo Ranch Protein bars are ideal!)
Morning of the Race (75-150 grams of carbohydrates depending on your body size) – Consume your last meal two hours before your race start time to allow for complete digestion and purging in a relaxed environment. Food items should be easily digestible and of the highest quality: real food smoothie, almond butter on a bagel or toast, slow cooked oatmeal with raisins, 2-3 egg omelets with a bowl of brightly colored fresh fruit.
After the Race – Liquid calories are the easiest to consume and are converted quickly to “feed” the body’s needs: protein for muscle regeneration and sugar for the muscles and the liver.
By implementing these nutritional tips and hitting proper hydration levels, you will see your body produce new levels of speed and a new level of performance! Work Smart, Not Hard!