By guest bloggers and student sports nutrition Dietitians: Annabel Murphy, Caitlin Davis and Louise Firth
Whether you’re walking the 3km route or getting sweaty on the 12km run at the annual City-Bay Fun Run this year, there are some simple and tasty ways that you can maximise your performance through your diet.
1 week before event
It is important to maintain a high carbohydrate diet in the week leading up to race day: Carbohydrate is stored as glycogen in the muscle and liver, and this is the fuel your body will be using for exercise on race day, especially if you are running. Carbohydrate intake should make up 45-65% of your total energy intake. Your energy requirements will be higher than usual because you are exercising, so aim to for the upper end of this range.
Dietary fat intake should be kept at a minimum in the week leading up to race day. Fat is not used as fuel during high intensity exercise like the City-Bay, so will be of no use to you on race day. Fat should make up less than 30% of your total energy intake. Limiting your fat intake will ensure that you are a lean, mean, racing machine!
In the week leading up to race day, it is beneficial to maintain a moderate protein intake. Excess protein won’t benefit your performance on race day, because it isn’t the main fuel used for exercise (that’s carbohydrate). Most people obtain adequate protein from their regular diet, so supplementary protein in the form of shakes and powders is unlikely to enhance your performance. Protein should make up around 15-25% of total energy intake.
It’s important to maintain hydration in the week leading up to race day in order to avoid dehydration. Dehydration can cause dizziness, fatigue and headaches, which will negatively affect your performance on race day. Aim to drink 1.5L of water per day. During intense exercise, and in this warmer spring weather, an extra 500mL to 1L per hour, for every hour of exercise is recommended to replace fluids lost through sweat. Water is the number one drink for rehydration, however, sports drinks are useful because they aid hydration, and also contain carbohydrate, which provides energy. Sports drinks are more appropriate for those running the City to Bay, as they require a greater amount of carbohydrate. Cordial, soft drink and alcohol are less appropriate choices for any competitor.
Recommendations for the week prior to race day
In the week leading up to the event, it’s important to maximise carbohydrate intake, as this will top up your muscle and liver glycogen stores, and provide you with energy on race day. Choose foods that are low in fat and modest in protein, as these nutrients take up space where carbohydrate could be consumed. Some examples of high carbohydrate (50g) foods include:
– 4 wheat biscuits
– 4 slices of bread
– 1¼ cups of rice or pasta
– 2 bananas
– 2 potatoes
– A jam or honey sandwich
– 1½ cups fruit salad
– 2 tubs of low fat yoghurt
The night before event
It’s important to have a high carbohydrate meal the night before the event, to ensure your muscle and liver glycogen stores are full, and that you will have enough energy for your race the next day. The meal should be predominantly carbohydrate, low in fat and modest in protein. Some appropriate meal ideas for the night before race day include 1¼ cups of pasta with a low fat tomato based sauce, or 1¼ cups of pumpkin risotto. If you think you’ll find it difficult to eat breakfast before the race, either due to a lack of time or pre-race jitters, it’s important that you maximise your carbohydrate intake the night before. This can be achieved by having a later supper before bed, such as a fruit salad with low fat ice-cream, a couple of slices of raisin bread, toast with honey or jam, plain sweet biscuits, a few pieces of fruit or Parson’s Rice Cream. Ensure you’ve drunk at least 1.5L of water for the day so that you are adequately hydrated.
The big day!
It’s really important to make sure both muscle and liver glycogen stores (carbohydrate stores) are maximised before the race. Eating a high carbohydrate meal for breakfast will then be of the utmost importance. High carbohydrate breakfast ideas include oats, toast with jam or honey, wheat biscuits, crumpets, muffins, pancakes, scones, breakfast cereals, untoasted muesli and fruit. If a big breakfast isn’t your thing, it is important to maximise glycogen stores the night before with a high carbohydrate dinner and supper (as mentioned above), and perhaps a small, or liquid-based breakfast before the race. Some good examples include Up & Go (not the low sugar varieties), a piece of fruit, fruit smoothies with low fat milk or muesli bars.
On your way to the race, try and drink 200-600mL of water to ensure you’re adequately hydrated. If it’s an especially hot day this year, aim to drink a little bit more.
During the event
To prevent dehydration, it is recommended to try and drink 150-200mL of water every 15 minutes throughout the race. During the race, runners are at a higher risk of dehydration due to greater fluid loss through sweat, and as a result need to try and drink a little bit more water during the event, especially is it’s a hot day.
Post event recovery
Congratulations on completing the City to Bay! Post event, it’s essential to replace your muscle and liver glycogen stores, which have been depleted during the race, through high carbohydrate intake. Moderate intake of protein will enhance muscle repair, reducing your recovery time. There are lots of tempting choices for a satisfying post-race hunger down at Moseley Square, such as burgers, hot chips and desserts. Some high carbohydrate, moderate protein meal choices that will maximise your recovery include flavored milk, low fat yoghurt, a low fat smoothie, or a chicken, lettuce and low fat mayonnaise sandwich.
It’s also vital to replace any lost fluids with water post event, to prevent dehydration and enhance recovery.
By following these food and fluid guidelines, you will be able to maximise your performance and get the most out of your body on race day – but most importantly, have fun! Below is a great recipe to try for dinner the night before.
Recipe idea for the night before:
Butternut Pumpkin Risotto
- 1 onion
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 2 sprigs thyme, chopped
- 250g butternut pumpkin, peeled and diced
- 200g risotto rice (such as aborio rice)
- 600ml of hot vegetable or chicken stock
- grated parmesan cheese, to serve
- Fry the onions in the olive oil until they are soft and transparent.
- Add the thyme, pumpkin and rice, stirring for a few seconds to coat the grains with oil, then add about a cup of the stock and bring to a simmer.
- Stir regularly, cooking until almost all the stock is absorbed before adding the rest of the stock, half a cup at a time, cooking until each addition is absorbed and the pumpkin is soft and the rice is creamy.
- Season with salt and pepper, before serving with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
Serves 3-4 medium bowls
For more information about eating for performance check out the Sports Dietitians Australia website.