Destination racing can be a lot of fun, yet a little nerve racking. Travel, dining out, and elements of being out of routine can spark a number of questions. Am I eating enough? Am I eating too much? What kind of food will be available at the hotel? Will there be a 2-hour wait at the restaurant? What if get sick during the race from a bad meal?
Key plan-ahead concepts can boost performance and your race-day mental game:
Pack a water bottle to allow ample opportunity to fill and refill with fluids in aiming for light colored urine as a sign of proper hydration leading up to the race start. Adding electrolyte-only packets or tablets offers flavor for a water-fatigued pallet and supports hydration retention. A nervous runner who struggles to meet carbohydrate goals through whole foods may want to consider drinking beverages with carbohydrates and electrolytes. Drinkable carbohydrates can support meeting pre-race carbohydrate goals when the desire to eat is lacking. Tomato juice, coconut water, and diluted juice with a pinch of salt are natural hydration alternatives to commercial sports products to support healthy hydration.
Pack a supply of the everyday easy-to-digest carbohydrate-rich snacks that you would typically consume throughout training. Familiar foods such as fresh fruit, low fat granola, hot or cold cereal, brown rice cakes or crackers, and whole grain bagels are options that travel well and stock the body with energizing carbohydrates to fuel successful endurance racing.
Research dining options located around your hotel in effort to find a restaurant that serves a comparable meal to one of your favorite pre-long run meals consumed often throughout training. Once you find a location, try to make a reservation to minimize the risk of a 2-hour wait time in a city full of hungry, race-minded runners. This is not the meal to be adventurous. Eat enough of a familiar meal to feel satisfied and well fueled, but not excessively full and over-stuffed.
Always pack a pre-race breakfast option. Even if the hotel serves an ideal pre-race breakfast, unforeseen circumstances such as a faulty alarm clock can wreck a good plan. Pack your typical breakfast or a safe backup in the event plan “A” falls through. Packets of oatmeal, a banana, and even a quick purchase of hard-boiled eggs are examples of pre-race fuel that can be kept in the hotel room for pre-race fueling.
The expo may not have your favorite race fuel brand and now really isn’t the time to try something new. Be prepared by packing your favorite fuel for during the race.
The excitement of a successful race finish can easily outshine the importance of recovery fuel soon after the race. Chatting with friends and family, the walk back to the hotel, and showering pushes a good celebratory meal out of the well-timed ideal recovery window. A recovery snack should be consumed soon after the race. The snack should contain about 10-25 grams of protein and roughly half of your body weight in grams of carbohydrate.
Post-race drinkable options such as the popular chocolate milk will promote rehydration, recovery, and is often quite palatable when appetite is low. Sufficient protein sources may not be available as part of the post-race fuel. When in doubt, pack your favorite recovery beverage such as tart cherry juice shaken with a scoop of pure whey protein powder. Have a stash of Greek yogurt and fresh fruit ready in the hotel refrigerator upon return to your room. A good recovery plan will aid the immune system, reduce muscle soreness, and support a quick return to great training.
By: Jackie Dikos, RD, CSSD, CLT Author of Finish Line Fueling: An Essential Guide to Runner’s Nutrition