Alison Patterson, Advanced Sports Dietitian
So you’ve done it! Signed up and committed to your first 10km run. That’s exciting! You’re no doubt training hard, but have you taken a moment to stop and consider your nutrition needs? Here are my top 5 tips to help you have an enjoyable race.
1. Find YOUR plan
Google “nutrition for running” and you’ll get millions of pages (literally!) come up with tips and pieces of advice. General advice is great as a starting point, but you need to work out what works best for YOU. Each week, set aside one run to use as a practice day for the race. Eat what you think you’re going to eat on race day in the lead up to the run and practice your in-race nutrition plan while you run. If something doesn’t work, try a different plan next week. That way, when race day arrives you’ll know you’ve got the perfect plan to get you to the finish line feeling strong.
2. Fuel your body so that you get the most out of training
Carbohydrates are a runner’s best friend! Carbs are the main fuel for the body during high intensity exercise. Without adequate carbs in your diet your training is likely to suffer. At lower intensities (e.g. walking pace) your body can use fat stores as fuel, but as soon as the intensity ramps up (and you start puffing), your body relies on carbs to fuel your muscles and your brain.
Importantly though, “adequate” carbs doesn’t mean “eating heaps of carbs all the time”. There may be times where it’s advantageous to train with lower fuel to simulate the latter stages of the race and having excess carbs in your diet can make it difficult to manage your weight. Put simply, timing is everything when it comes to carbohydrates. Heavy training days require more fuel, and therefore more carbs. On the flip side, fuel (and carbohydrate) needs are lower on easy training days or rest days. Finding the balance in your daily carb needs can take some trial and error but will make a huge difference to your running.
3. Prepare for the heat
The weather can be warm on the Bellarine in February so it’s important to prepare for the heat. Understanding your individual fluid needs is the first step to developing a hydration plan. It’s impossible to give a general recommendation for hourly fluid needs as each person has a unique sweat rate (this can be identified through a sweat testing assessment). Once you have a clearer understanding of your sweat losses and fluid needs, additional planning can be made to determine the timing of fluid intake and the type of fluid that would be best suited to you.
4. Don’t ditch last chance fuelling
Being an evening run, lunch on race day is your last chance to top up your fuel stores and prime your body for the race ahead. Too often, runners get nervous and ditch their pre-race meal at the last minute which can leave you feeling fatigued in the later stages of the run. If you’re nervous, or someone who struggles to eat close to the race, there are a few things you could try:
· Add in an extra carb-rich snack at breakfast to reduce the amount of food you need to eat at lunch time
· Keep your lunch light – try English muffins with peanut butter + banana
· Try a fruit smoothie or flavoured milk before you race - liquids empty more quickly from your stomach than solids
5. Stick with your plan (but have a back-up!)
You’ve practiced your plan in training and you know it works so stick to it! There’s no benefit in trying something new on race day and more often than not, trying something new can end terribly. Having said that, it’s important to have a back-up plan ‘just in case’. For example, it’s worth carrying an extra gel in case you find there’s a howling headwind and the run is taking you longer than planned.
If you’d like to know more about nutrition for your individual situation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Ali (http://www.alisonpatterson.com/). You can also like her Facebook page for regular tips and recipes https://www.facebook.com/alisonpatterson.sportsdietitian/