Forget what you’ve heard about carb-loading. This strategy will ensure you’re ready for your race.
Q: What is the best race-day eating plan leading up to an evening event?
A: The two highest impact areas you need to look at are pre-loading and sustaining.
You should not worry about carb-loading on the days leading up to the race, despite its popularity. Some research shows that it doesn’t consistently increase performance. It’s even less so in women due to estrogen muddling things up with respects to glycogen storage.
Instead, to ensure your body will be ready to go on the start line, eat as you normally would on the day of your race. Then, two to three hours before the race, pre-load with a meal that’s high-carbohydrate (~70g) and low- to moderate-protein (~15g). This combination will increase your muscle energy. Also, it will increase the proportion of carbs that you use to fuel your efforts during your race, plus the protein can help attenuate muscle damage.
Sample Pre-Load Meal: Quinoa & Black Beans
1 teaspoon cumin2 tomato, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 teaspoon avocado oil
1 cup canned low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
4 tablespoons minced cilantro
1 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
Heat oil in a medium, nonstick, pan over medium heat. Add, peppers, tomatoes and cumin. Saute for 2 minutes. Add beans and quinoa and cook until heated through. Add cilantro and salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm.
Nutrition score per serving: 397 calories, 10g fat, 68g carbs, 17g protein.
Depending of a duration of the race, it’s important how you will prepare your eating strategy to sustain performance is. For example, if you are running in a 5K, on average this will take 25 to 35 minutes. In this case you have more than enough stored energy in your muscles to fuel you. Hence you don’t need a sustaining component to your nutrition. Therefore, if you are running in a 10K, which can take 70 to 80 minutes, you can use extra carbohydrates later in your race to maintain your performance and give you an extra energy in the last miles.
A good rule of thumb is that once your race goes beyond 60 minutes, you will want to supply 30 to 45 grams of carbohydrates per hour to augment the fuel your body is already getting from the sugar stored in your muscles. If you estimate that it’ll take you 80 minutes to run your 10K, then you’ll need some sport drink, 45 to 50 minutes into your event will be all you’ll need to ensure sustained performance and energy to the finish line.