What’s your favourite pre-race dinner? Is it a tried and tested favourite with a scientific basis or is it just pure superstition? Are you the sort of runner who takes no chances pre-race or do you just grab whatever you can get your hands on from the hotel vending machine?
We asked the TrainAsONE Team what pre-race dinner they swear by. Some of their answers won’t be a big carby surprise but others may be controversial! But don’t worry, because help is at hand from an expert. Renee McGregor, dietician to the TrainAsONE Team as well as several GB teams, outlines some basic rules for what we should all be aiming to eat the night before a race. So, if you want to improve your pre-race nutrition, read on!
Most of the TrainAsONE Team have fairly predictable pre-race tastes. From a simple tomato-based sauce with pasta, to sweet potatoes, salad and bread, lots of the team played it safe. Pizza was also a big favourite, as was simple pub grub of chicken, rice and veg.
The team had differing opinions on spice, with some saying ‘no curry, no spicy foods’ and one in particular saying ‘pile on the jalapeños or green chillies’. One found meat doesn’t agree with him through bitter experience and one just didn’t really stress about what they ate. It was just whatever they could get their hands on wherever they were.
The pre-race nutritional antics of the team are probably pretty similar to those of most runners. But what could you do to make your nutrition even better? What can you do to avoid that dodgy tummy on race morning and make sure your energy levels are high? It’s over to Renee McGregor!
The key thing to the meal before a race is ensuring that it doesn’t have any components that may slow down or have a negative impact on digestion. Now while this will be individual, there are some general rules that most people will benefit from following:
- Avoid high fat foods such as curry or chips; fat slows down digestion and can thus have a negative impact on your GI system, especially during long endurance events or very fast races.
- Avoid red meat as this is very high in protein and fat.
- Spicy food can irritate the gut lining for some but maybe not those who are well accustomed and adapted.
- Reduce your intake of high fibre foods in the few days prior to a race.
- For some people, avoiding dairy 24-48 hours prior to a race can also be beneficial.
So ideally keep things simple and also higher in carbs than usual. Some carbs are more easily digested than others so foods such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, pasta, rice or pizza dough are all good options.
Ideally I would be thinking about your nutrition 24-72 hours prior to your race depending on the length of the race. Remember, you want to start the race with full glycogen stores. Building glycogen stores is not just about eating carbs but actually the timing as it takes between 24-48 hours for your consumption of carbs to be turned into glycogen stores. So eating little and often higher carb snacks such as oatcakes, crumpets, malt loaf, bananas and cereal can all be beneficial.
That said the meal the night before a race is still relatively important but this does not give you special dispensation to stuff yourself! Actually, that’s the worst thing you can do. Instead, have something that you feel comfortable with and helps you get a good night’s sleep. Foods high in carbs are your best option as while there may not be enough time for this to be made into glycogen, you will still benefit from the fact that there will be enough available glucose circulating around within your blood.
The best advice I can give is to trial and test during training so that you know what works best for you. This also means you are more confident going into a race, knowing that you have controlled all the controllables.
All images by Tim Lloyd Photography