For the past 16 weeks or so it has been all about the running, but now we need to turn our attention to tapering our body for the big day. The hard work in training has been done so it is time to reduce our mileage and maximise our freshness to run at 110% on the big day...
Incomes race week nutrition! Coupled with reducing our workload as we taper towards the big day, making some tweaks to how we fuel ourselves will help get the most from the big day itself. It is important to state that there is no one size fits all in terms of nutrition and the process will be different for everyone so please do go back to basics with trial and error.
So, this is where the famous ‘carb-loading’ comes into play. There are lots of myths around carb-loading, but we really don’t need to overcomplicate things. Through race week nutrition, you want to allow the muscles enough ‘rest’ to reload with glycogen (energy) through eating well. An increase in the proportion of carbohydrates in your diet, along with the taper will allow the muscles to store these additional carbohydrates ready for race day. Rather than trying to consume these all during three big meals that might leave you feeling lethargic, try little but more often throughout the day.
Some examples of high carbohydrate meals:
Pasta based meals
Rice based dishes
Potato based meals
Bread or bagel with peanut butter or topping of choice
It is important to state that you shouldn’t dramatically increase your calories, however you will find that they naturally increase due to the increased carbohydrate intake, but you want to be focusing on increasing the proportion of carbs in each meal.
Whilst you are going through this process, it is also important to not forget about the other food groups such as protein. Keeping your protein high throughout this period will not only help muscle recovery but it also slows the digestion of carbohydrates, this is perfect for the marathon as you don’t want that quick hit of energy release at the start of the race, you want it to be sustained throughout the 42.2km! Alongside thinking about how to fuel optimally, and manage our running workload through a taper we want to think about all other areas of our recovery, make sure to sleep well, do plenty of mobility work and hydrate well, it all adds up.
3 Days Before
3 days before race day is where you might need to start thinking about your nutrition a little more. This is where you might want to slightly reduce high in fibre foods such as high volumes of vegetables, whole grains, cereals. I think everyone training for a marathon will understand the impact this could have on your bowels, so to help this situation on race day, limit that fibre to take the weight out of the intestines to help you have a smooth run!
2-4 hours before
You’ve just spent the last 10 days loading up on carbohydrates for your glycogen stores so it is only right to see race day with another high carbohydrate meal to keep those stores topped up. Back off on fats and keep your protein intake relatively low below 15g for this meal. You want to try to eat breakfast 3-4 hours before you cross that start line to allow optimal digestion and storage. To put it crudely, this will also allow yourself enough time for the bowels to start moving and mean you can hopefully visit the toilet before the start. It becomes a pay off between waking up early and getting that breakfast pre race meal in so experiment with what works with you in training and have confidence in that and don’t feel you need to change things up significantly for the big day. We would encourage you to consume an extra snack before you set off, but this is where your own practice and nutrition takes over.
For context, our Head Coach Ben's pre-race meal is always weetabix chocolate mini’s with milk and a coffee a few hours before. Then he’ll typically have an energy bar and caffeinated drink shortly before setting off.
It is important to note that throughout this period, you need to ensure you are keeping your body hydrated to carry out its daily functions and support your immune system. It is also important to recognise that your body stores around 3g of water for every gram of glycogen stores so during this period, you might find you have put on a little weight, congratulations! You have successfully carb-loaded and ready for race day and it’ll act as your rocket fuel!
The time has come, good luck and make sure you enjoy this, you have worked hard throughout the process.