Carbs, carbs, carbs! It goes without saying that carbohydrates are crucial when preparing for a long race. This is because carbohydrates are stored in your body as glycogen. Glycogen is the most easily accessible form of energy in your body. Whilst your body will also burn fat during a lengthy race the conversion of fat into energy is far less efficient than that of glycogen into energy. Therefore when converting fat your body has to work much harder.
If you run out of glycogen your body has to slow down in order to turn fat into energy. This is when you hit ‘the wall’. So, in order to avoid hitting the wall you need to fill yourself to the max with glycogen by carbo-loading!
BUT WHICH CARBS SHOULD I LOAD UP ON?
Oats, basmati rice, pasta (with tomato based sauces), English muffins, wholemeal toast and bagels are all easily digestible. Steer clear of foods high in fibre the night before race day as these may cause stomach issues during your race! Other foods to avoid the day before include high fat foods and high protein foods as these take longer to digest.
(Porridge with sliced banana)
BUT HOW MUCH SHOULD I EAT?
5 days before your race you should begin to increase your daily intake of carbs to make up 70% of your calories. Two or three days before your race up your carbohydrate consumption to 80-90% of your caloric intake.
During training you will have sussed out what foods, quantities and meal timings do and don’t agree with you. Most importantly don’t try anything new! Now is not the time for experimenting.
With your training significantly reduced at this stage your increased intake of carbs will allow for the accumulation of glycogen. Storing extra glycogen is also important because it allows you to store more water thus leaving you hydrated and brimming with energy when you step onto the start line.
(Sweet potato with tuna)
24 HOURS BEFORE
Eat normal sized meals and make sure to consume plenty of fluids, especially those containing electrolytes. Eat a small but high-carb dinner. Make sure to eat early in order to allow ample time for digestion.
Eating two to three hours before your race is optimal. Eat a small breakfast, for example a bagel and a yogurt or a bowl of porridge with banana. 60-90 minutes before your race have a small snack sized meal such as a slice of bread with jam. Make sure to also drink enough water to keep you hydrated (but not too much – drinking too much is far more dangerous than not drinking enough). Most importantly don’t deviate from what’s been tried and tested in training!