As athletes, and specifically endurance athletes, we spend hours upon hours of training to get ourselves ready for our events. We train before and after work dialing in our training to optimize our abilities. Sometimes we do great at races, sometimes we don’t – and most of us don’t make the connection that what we eat makes the difference in our performance. I had a client call me days before his marathon asking ‘What should I eat the night before my race – chicken, pasta or beef?” My response: “What did you eat the night before all your long runs in training?” ‘Hmm, maybe that is why I had some good runs and some bad, as I have no idea what I ate. Maybe I should pay attention to that next time??!!”
I just had a client yesterday who called me after proofing this article. It reminded her to eat right before her afternoon 5K. Normally she would just eat whatever and go run. This time, she listened to her body and what it wanted to eat (baked potato with peanut butter was one snack which otherwise could have been a doughnut maybe with Nutella!). She had never done that consciously eating thing and was thrilled with here results- she took 15 seconds per minute off her time and felt great the whole way! She was able to race like she had not raced before! All because she paid attention to what fuel she put into her extra special body. We are all Maserati’s and Bentley’s you know 🙂 We just forgot that we need to fuel the body with the right fuels to get the performance we desire.
As athletes we need to practice our nutrition plan as part of our training. We need to start paying attention to how we feel based on the foods we eat. Some questions that you may want to start asking yourself about the foods that fuel your body:
Will I feel tired or energized eating this?
Will I get a stomach ache or some other GI issue if I eat that? Will it make me gassy?
Will I feel hungry and have my stomach grumble?
Will I make it to the finish line without puking? or running out of energy? Will I bonk?
How will I feel afterwards? or the day after? Will I ache all over or feel like I can do this again?
What should I eat the day before? the night before? What about race day morning?
What will I have during my race? How much and of what? Will it work in cycling and running?
This is where trial and error comes into play. You can do either on your own, or work with a sports nutrition coach or sports dietician to help take the guess work out of the equation. A sports nutritionist can help you with analyzing what you do now for your meals and what you eat for your actual training sessions. They can then optimize the combinations of foods you eat, the number of calories and type of calories you need per hour depending on the type of activity and duration/intensity. A sports nutrition coach can help you optimize the combinations you use and help teach you how your body works with the right (or wrong) nutrition plan. You will have tested all these combinations in training, so when race day comes along, you know exactly what to eat, how much and when.
As an athlete you spend a lot of money or race entry fees, the best bike and equipment, travel, hotels, coaches and plenty of food along the way. Why not start looking at what you are eating and how you feel. Nutrition will make your race stellar, or terrible. Why take a chance on how you feel and guess (or walk) your way to the finish line? Get to the start line leaving nothing to chance, except who your competitors are that day. Utilizing a personal sports nutrition plan from a sports nutrition coach is like insurance for your race investment.
Joanna Chodorowska is the founder and head sports nutrition coach at Nutrition in Motion, LLC. She helps you optimize your nutrition so you can perform better more often. She is a 2 time Ironman finisher and has placed top in her age group consistently.
For more information on sports nutrition plans and on Race Day Nutrition analysis, please visit www.n-im.net or find us on Facebook under Nutrition in Motion.