This question this week comes from Matt in North Carolina. He asks:
"What should I eat and drink during a long race?"
Many runners worry about what to eat 24 hours before a race, when they should be asking this question months in advance. What a runner eats and drinks during a race is dependent on what they ate the previous day and week. See, good nutrition and hydration can't be something you think of last minute. It's why I always remind people of this "you can't cram hydration".
Eating nutrient dense food helps you run faster, recover faster and overall a healthy runner. I'm a plant-based athlete and so the foods I recommend are packed full of nutrients that will help your body. Hemp seeds, chia seeds, quinoa, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, spirulina, avocado, coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts, lentils, legumes are all examples of fantastic real foods that will nourish your body. If you eat meat, make sure it is humanely raised and killed and pasture fed. If you eat eggs, eat the whole egg and buy local if you can. Commercial eggs are very weak in nutrition- all eggs aren't created equal!
When you eat nutrient dense food like the ones I describe above, you are eating electrolytes, which will help you on race day. If you don't already, start getting in the habit of carrying a reusable water bottle with you everywhere. If you drink coffee, it will dehydrate you so you'll have to drink more amazing H2O. (I don't drink coffee.)
Depending on your definition of a long run (for me it's anything over 31 miles), and your time to complete the distance, your nutritional needs will vary. If your long race is 10 miles, then you probably don't need to eat much, if at all.
The night before a race or long run, eat a nutrient-dense meal. My standby is quinoa, bok choy, extra virgin coconut oil, avocado, sweet potatoes. Carb loading with white pasta will only cause GI issues, fatigue and your stomach will be heavy trying to digest it. You want the blood in your legs, not in your stomach!
Pre-race/long run. The average runner, you'll need a pre-run drink. I recommend the Vega Sport pre-workout. If you are running a marathon, you can add a banana and a handful of nuts to your pre-run breakfast.
During the race, again I recommend Vega Sport Sustain. Also, fruit during the race is good too. My favorites include oranges and cold red grapes during a hot race! Potatoes are a good option too (I eat sweet potatoes when I run ultramarathons). I also add a tablespoon of chia seeds to my water bottle and refill with water as I go.
Remember that you can only digest about 300 calories per hour when running a longer distance (i.e. 26.2 miles) so don't eat too much or you'll have GI issues, feel bloated, and sick.
At the end of the race or long run, I swear by Vega Recovery Protein Shake. It will help you repair the muscles you just broke down!
Avoid sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade), most gels, dairy, junk "food", and anything that isn't real food.
I hope that helps you, Matt! And you too :)
What do you eat before, during, after a race? As always, leave a comment/question and I'll be happy to answer them!
Photo credit: Aaron Thompson