Remember to Run FAST


I was recently teaching at the Running Works in Guelph and had some great discussion around pre-race nutrition.  At the talk we talked about the key nutritional principles surrounding race day. We talked about what your body is looking for, what can help us succeed and how to ensure we have our basics covered.  So please enjoy the advice and Remember to Run FAST:

Fuel:  Many people don’t realize, but when it comes to running our body has enough fat to run from Guelph to California and back.  So, it is well understood that our body is not looking for fat for fuel the day before and during our race. Our body in this time is looking for simple, complex carbohydrates and readily available protein.  Simple carbohydrates are energy it can use now, complex carbohydrates are energy that it can use later and protein is what is needed to protect muscle from damage that occurs during running. When looking to fuel for our body be sure to have a combination of all 3.  A great examples of a pre-race meal might include a piece of fruit, oatmeal and a bagel with nut butter with some water.

Aqua: Dehydration is a major problem when it comes to performance.  Loss of 2% of body mass in water is known to decrease performance. As most races are in the morning we have to replete loss water from sweat and breathing from the night before so be sure to drink some water every morning and especially before your race.  When you aim to run longer and longer races you can begin to calculate water loss by weighing yourself before and after runs. Only by measuring ourselves before and after can we tell how well we are hydrating.

Same-Same: As exciting as it can be to try out new products and supplements the same day as race day I would caution against it.  The problem is that while you may have a bit of anxiety (some butterflies if you will) already before your run you want to only add familiars into your stomach and body.  A major mistake that some people make is starting energy gels or caffeine supplements the same day as race day with no prior experience. Now this would be completely fine if your body was used to them and if it is something you’ve used while training however for some people this is often their first experience.  So please avoid some AWKWARD G.I. experiences and stay with foods your body is expecting.

Timing:  Nutritional timing is one of those key variables that many athlete’s have never learned about.  I have been asked often “When should I eat?” and “What should I be eating?” before my race. We already covered a little bit on fuel so let’s look at when you should be eating.  Best times to eat on race day are 3 hours before your race, a snack 90-60 minutes before, within 45 minutes of finishing and 3 hours within finishing your race. Eating your bigger meal 3 hours before allows your body the opportunity to digest it and for most of it to pass beyond your stomach.  Some people feel worse without a bit of food and for those having a light snack before your run can be extremely helpful. Most important to me is your post race nutrition. Here is when our body is looking to rebuild its glycogen stores (sugars in your muscle) and to repair all the micro-tears in your muscle.  When people run a lot and are building their mileage up they can run into having low availability of protein. What this means is that your body will begin to steal protein from other areas and your immune system can dampen and even the connections of the gut lining because overall the body is lacking availability of amino acids (proteins).  So, within 45 minutes of finishing a race have a bit of protein and within 3 hours aim to have a meal with complex carbohydrates. Your body will thank you for it.

Thanks for everyone who reads this and if you have any questions or want to know more about my practice in Guelph please let me know.  Nutrition is a huge part of performance and arguably 70% of the battle when it comes to body composition, so learning how to align your nutrition with your running goals is super important.

Yours in health,

Dr. Graeme Rowell, ND