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How to Prepare for Your Race Week: Nutrition Tips for Endurance Athletes

Updated: 6 days ago

You have trained hard for your race, and now it is time to prepare from a nutrition standpoint. What you eat and drink in the days leading up to your event can make a big difference in your performance and recovery. Here are some nutrition tips for endurance athletes to help you get ready for your race week.

Don’t Carb-Load, but Do Eat Enough Carbs:

Your body has a limited capacity to store glycogen, and it cannot absorb more than it needs. Eating too many calories or carbs right before your race will not increase your glycogen stores, and it may cause digestive problems or weight gain. Instead, you should aim to eat enough carbs to maintain your normal glycogen levels, and to replenish them after each training session. A good rule of thumb is to eat about 3 to 5 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight per day. For example, if you weigh 70 kg, you should eat about 210 to 350 grams of carbs per day.

Choose complex carbs that are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. Avoid simple carbs that are high in sugar, fat, and salt, such as candy, soda, pastries, chips, and fast food. These foods can cause blood sugar spikes, inflammation, and dehydration, which can impair your performance and recovery.

Include Protein & Healthy Fats in Your Diet

Your muscles need protein to be able to provide you with that life-force for power production, especially on the swim & bike portions . Also, fats are another important source of energy for endurance athletes, especially for longer events. Fats can provide more than twice as much energy as carbs per gram, and they can help you feel full and satisfied. Fats can also help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K, and they can support your immune system, hormone production, and brain function.

However, not all fats are created equal. You should avoid trans fats and limit saturated fats, as they can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Trans fats are found in processed foods, such as margarine, baked goods, and fried foods. Saturated fats are found in animal products, such as meat, dairy, and eggs. You should limit your intake of these fats to less than 10% of your total calories per day.

Instead, you should focus on eating more unsaturated fats, which can lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation. Unsaturated fats are found in plant-based foods, such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and fish. You should aim to get about 20% to 30% of your total calories from these healthy fats per day.

Stay Hydrated and Replenish Your Electrolytes

Hydration is crucial for endurance athletes, as it affects your blood volume, heart rate, body temperature, muscle function, and mental performance. Dehydration can cause fatigue, cramps, headaches, nausea, and impaired performance. To prevent dehydration, you should drink enough fluids before, during, and after your race.

The amount of fluid you need depends on your body weight, sweat rate, weather conditions, and race duration. A general guideline is to drink about 500 ml of water two hours before your race- (I adevise athletes to bring an extra bottle of fluids mixed with electrolytes to sip away while in transition) and then drink about 150 to 250 ml every 15 to 20 minutes during your race. You can use your thirst, urine color, and body weight as indicators of your hydration status. You should drink enough to quench your thirst, keep your urine pale yellow, and avoid losing more than 2% of your body weight.

Electrolytes are minerals that help regulate your fluid balance, nerve impulses, muscle contractions, and pH levels. Electrolytes are lost through sweat, urine, and breathing, and they need to be replaced to avoid cramps, weakness, and irregular heartbeat. You can drink sports drinks (anything similar to Gatorade Endurance formulas) to get some electrolytes, or you can add electrolyte tablets to your water. You should aim to get about 500 to 700 mg of sodium per liter of fluid, and about 200 to 300 mg of potassium per liter of fluid.

Eat Familiar Foods and Avoid Dietary Changes

One of the most important nutrition tips for endurance athletes is to stick to what you know and avoid any dietary changes in the days before your race. This is because your digestive system may not be able to handle new or unfamiliar foods, and this can cause gastrointestinal distress, such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation. These symptoms can ruin your race and your recovery.

Therefore, you should eat foods that you are used to eating, and that you know work well for you. You should also avoid foods that are known to cause digestive problems, such as spicy, greasy, or high-fiber foods. You should also limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners, as they can dehydrate you, disrupt your sleep, and alter your bowel movements.

If you want to try new foods or supplements, you should do so at least two weeks before your race, and test them during your training sessions. This way, you can see how your body reacts to them, and adjust your intake accordingly. You should also consult your doctor or a registered dietitian before making any significant dietary changes, especially if you have any medical conditions or allergies.

Summary

Nutrition is a key factor in your race preparation, performance, and recovery. To optimize your nutrition for your race week, you should follow these tips:

  • Don’t carb-load, but do eat enough carbs to maintain your glycogen levels

  • Include proteins and healthy fats in your diet to provide more energy and support your racing demands.

  • Stay hydrated throughout the week leading to the race - and replenish your electrolytes to avoid dehydration and cramps

  • Eat familiar foods and avoid dietary changes to prevent gastrointestinal distress, especially on the days leading to your race .

By following these tips, you can fuel your body properly and you will be ready to take on that race . Good luck and have fun!

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