Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pre-Race Training and Nutrition Guidelines

Tomorrow I'm running the Des Moines Half Marathon.  This inspired me to form a list of pre-race guidelines and tips to nutrition and training.

The last few days before race day can be very nerve racking.  Especially for first timers!  These guidelines can be very helpful when planning out your last few days before the big race.  However, it is important to note that every person is different!  Throughout your training it is essential that you listen to your body, so that come race week you know what works best and what doesn't.  This is true for your nutrition AND training!  Training plans can be very beneficial, especially to first time runners.  However, only you know what it takes to have your body at peak performance come race day.  Below are some general pre-race guidelines that can be very useful, keeping in mind that everyone's body is unique and different.

Good nutrition is important all throughout training. However, it becomes increasingly important in the last few days leading up to your race.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
It is important to stay hydrated, especially in the days leading up to race day.  However, it is also important to maintain a healthy balance of electrolytes.  A good way to check this is by monitoring your urine, which should be frequent and very light yellow.  Many racers also begin consuming fluid replacement drinks and gatorade to keep their electrolytes balanced.

It is important to have enough fuel come race day, but this must be balanced with not feeling bloated, weighed down, or having to use the port-a-potty every few miles.  In the few days leading up to race day, you should make sure to consume plenty of calories.  You may also want to increase your intake of carbohydrates, commonly called carb-loading!  In my opinion, one of the best parts of race week!

The last 24 hours before your race are particularly important.  Make sure to eat plenty of food, especially carbs, but be careful not to overindulge.  This is something that is unique to each person.  Throughout training, you should experiment with different foods, so that on race week you know exactly what best suits your body.  Generally, it is recommended that you consume your last big meal 12 hours before the race.  I like to have whole wheat pasta the night before a race!

Your pre-race meal should consist mostly of carbs with some protein.  Fats and fiber should be limited.  Some runners stick to a liquid diet on race day (all depends on your body).  Many races start early, so you will need to wake up really early to get a good breakfast.  It is recommended that you consume your last solid food at least 2 hours before race time, as to give your body time to digest.  It is, however, important to keep hydrating right up until your race.

Personally, my favorite pre-race breakfast is oatmeal (made with skim milk) topped with 2 egg-whites, sliced almonds, blueberries, cinnamon, and peanut butter.  This may be more than some people prefer to eat, but it is what I have found to work best for me.


Keep the same basic training routine in the days prior to your race.  At this point you should have listened to your body enough to know what works best for you.  Most people begin to taper in the week or weeks leading up to their race.  This term means reducing your workout regimen or mileage. For example: I prefer to run my last long run about one week prior to my race.  Then I taper my miles for the last week and I rest the last day before my race.  This is what I have observed to work best for my body.  It is, however, usually recommended that you go for a short run the day before your race.  It all depends on what works for you!

It is also very important to adequate amounts of sleep in the nights leading up to your big race.

Good luck!

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