February 3, 2016

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Whether you’re running a 5km, half marathon or ultra marathon, you need to plan what to eat before, during and after your race. This will enable you to achieve your best race result and allow your body to recover faster so you’re ready for the next race or hard training session. As an athlete I remember going to a half marathon once in the UK and not taking any post race nutrition with me. I was only focused on the race itself but once I finished, I didn’t get any recovery drinks/ food into my body for quite some time. This inhibited my recovery and as a result, took a little longer to be ready for the next hard training session. Ever since then, I was more careful with my post race recovery nutrition and noticed it did help!

Pre race dinner

Make sure you have something with carbohydrate i.e. rice, potatoes or pasta. Some lean protein i.e. chicken or meat alternative + vegies is good. Don’t have spicy sauces or anything you don’t normally eat. Even pizza is fine if you are limited with options – just make sure you’ve practiced whatever you do eat, the night before a hard training session. Before marathons I like to have a snack a few hours after the pre race dinner – something with fat in it is fine like a muffin or small piece of cake or granola bar. Keep sipping on some fluid – water or sports drink (if running a longer race).

Race day breakfast

I always like to eat at least 2 hours before an early morning race so make sure you get up in time to do so. A power bar + toast with banana + honey is what I like but other options could be cereal (be careful of too much milk on race day), bagels, rice cereal or porridge. I like to have some coffee too and 10min before the start, a gel with a few sips of water.

During your race

In a 5km and 10km race you don’t really need to take any fluids or eat anything unless it’s a hot day. Some people drink too much in these types of races and it actually inhibits their performance. For marathons, I like to take a gel every 8-12km depending on how I’m feeling. Always have some sips of sports drink (diluted if a hot day) or water with your gel (or carbohydrate source) and extra fluid every 5km or so. Remember to take sips of water and gels over the first 30km even if you don’t feel thirsty. Once you’re into the last 10km, your body has little time to absorb anything after this point so remember to refuel early.

Post race recovery

Take an empty water bottle with 2 scoops of protein powder and add some water post race and you have an inexpensive protein recovery shake ready to go as soon as you cross the line. Other things you could have post race are bananas, fruit and nut mix, lollies, honey sandwich etc. Ideally, try to make sure you drink something as well as eat as ideally you want to replenish hydration and glycogen stores at the same time. Sometimes you can drink something post race but don’t feel like eating so a protein/ carbohydrate recovery shake or some chocolate milk is ideal. If all else fails, often at bigger races they have food / drinks that you could take as you cross through the finish area. Even if you are feeling sick or too tired post race, make sure you take something for as soon as you feel ok.

By Benita Willis