As far back as I can remember in the running world athletes have been stuffing their faces with Spaghetti the night before races. This ritual seems to have its roots in the marathon world. Is this still recommended? If not, what should you eat before races?
Eating a super high carbohydrate meal the night before a race may not be necessary. There is a threshold value of carbohydrate that you can store in your muscles. (Approximately 10G/KG) So if you weigh 70KG (154 lbs), that would be 700g of carbs. In an attempt to reach that storage you may risk digestive distress and bloating along the way. Inevitably, higher carb intake also includes higher sugar intakes, creating spikes and drops in energy. That doesn’t sound great when you are trying to set a PR.
If your event’s duration is less than 90 minutes, and your carb storage is adequate, there is little benefit with carb loading. The goal should then be to “top off” your storage. There is some benefit of increasing your carbs slightly the week before a competition, for the dinner the night before and for the pre-race meal if time permits.
Most athletes, unless they are starving themselves, have sufficient glycogen muscle storage and can replenish carbs lost during sleep with as little as 100-150 grams of slow release carbs like White rice, sweet potato, yams, or taro. That is about two cups of rice.
So what to eat pre-race?
Blended Juices and Fruits - from the real fruit or vegetable - See this from Marathoner and Olympian Shalane Flanagan -
Blending makes digestion easier – allows body to focus on the task at hand – respiration, etc.
Small amounts of Caffeine (1 cup)
Easy to digest Carbohydrates
Easy to digest fats
(MCT oil, Coconut oil, Udo’s oil)
Easy to digest Protein
(Whey protein – Essential amino acids, bone broth)
It may be tempting to change your pre-race rituals based on the information here or from other sources. Please test out foods that you are unaccustomed to eating before race day. Introducing new foods the night before races or competitions can lead to major GI stress!
See you out there!
GREENFIELD, B. E. N. (2018). Beyond Training: mastering endurance, health & life. Place of publication not identified: TUTTLE Publishing.
The Effects of Caffeine Ingestion on Time Trial Cycling Performance. Retrieved from L.R. McNaughton, R.J. Lovell, J. Siegler, A.W. Midgley, L. Moore, and D.J. Bentley
Disclaimer: This Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.