Everyone knows the importance of properly training to get ready for a sports competition. You spend hours upon hours stretching your body to its physical limits to have it in peak condition for race day. Yet, another crucial element to succeeding at sports challenges of all kinds is often neglected: nutrition. Proper nutrition gives your body the building blocks it needs to achieve optimal performance on race day. Follow these simple strategies to fuel your body with what you need to meet your goals.
Pre-race nutrition begins long before race day. As you train for your event, focus on eating real, whole foods. Aim to avoid added sugars, refined carbohydrates, and chemical additives. Processed foods are some of the biggest offenders when it comes to these ingredients. These foods give a brief energy high, followed by a subsequent crash, leaving you feeling lethargic and ill-prepared to train well. Instead, fill your plate with complex carbs from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains paired with lean proteins and healthy fats.
The morning of your competition is always a tricky one, aim to eat breakfast one to two hours before your competition. This prevents you from being overly full while you are racing, but also keeps you from feeling hungry during the event. Be sure your meal contains at least 16 oz of water, plenty of healthy carbs (think of foods like bananas), and a moderate amount of protein. Fat and fibre content should be low in your pre-race breakfast for optimal digestion.
Be sure to stay hydrated during the event; even if it’s cold outside. For events longer than an hour, you may find that you need energy gels to keep your body’s glycogen levels up. Orange slices can also be helpful for their quickly digestible energy, whilst isotonic drinks are also a popular source for optimised hydration.
After your challenge, you have depleted much of your nutritional reserves. Try to refuel within an hour of completing a race. Coconut water is an excellent choice to replenish your electrolytes without all the added sugars many sports drinks contain. A post race meal should have a ratio of about 3 to 1 carbohydrates to protein.
After your competition is over, reduce your overall calories if you are no longer in active training, but continue to follow the nutritional principles you used during your training phase for optimal health and wellbeing. Due to competitions and races often starting early, it can sometimes be incredibly hard to get your timings right when it comes to fuel intake. However, this is not something you should consider skipping. If it means waking up earlier to get your body in shape to participate and fuel properly, then wake up earlier! Going into an event with low energy reserves can be dangerous to your health, as well as effect your overall performance.