I’ve been running for a few years now and this is my 6th (!!) half marathon, but I still don’t feel like I have a good grasp on race week nutrition. I tend to swing from “I deserve it all / carb-loading” mentality – which leads me to binge – to an overly restrictive, must avoid the binge trigger at all cost end of the spectrum. It’s especially hard because the kinds of foods that are recommended in race week, lower fiber carbohydrates, tend to be the pastas and breads that have been binge triggers for me in the past. I still have a little fear of those foods. At the Des Moines half marathon last year, I definitely went overboard (although didn’t truly binge) and felt disgusted with myself afterwards. Beyond the emotional disgust, my stomach didn’t feel great either. This year, I need a better plan.
I’ve been pretty reasonable about my diet through this entire training cycle, focusing on healthy choices as much as possible. My interest in my reading this week has been in managing these last few days. First, I turned to “Eat to Peak”, which is a great nutrition book that I reviewed here earlier this year.
This book recommends increasing your carbohydrate intake to up to 70% of your calories during the 2-3 days before a race in order to ensure your muscles are fully stocked with glycogen. These carbs, especially as you get closer to race day, should be something familiar and easy on your stomach (so not high fiber or paired with a lot of fat). She also notes that your carbohydrate target for the week overall should be based on your weight, around 6 -10 grams/kg.
This is similar to what I found in Runner’s World articles on the topic, which recommended 3.5 – 4 grams carbohydrate per pound of body weight (2.2 lbs = 1 kg) in the 3-4 days before a race. For me, at 81 kg, this means I need to be eating between 485 – 800 grams of carbohydrate a day for the rest of this week. That is A LOT more carbohydrates than I normally eat. I checked a typical food day in My Fitness Pal last night and I was at 227 grams of carbohydrates.
Given that I’m usually well below that target and that I’m worried about walking that fine line regarding binge triggers, I’m going to aim for the 500 gram point. I don’t want to go overboard and upset my stomach or feel bloated and anxious. While some weight gain is typical when you restock glycogen (because glycogen holds onto water), I don’t really want to add 250 grams of carbohydrates to my daily carbohydrate total since that would be an extra 1000 calories a day (1 gram carb = 4 kcal). I’ll be looking to swap some of my non-carbohydrate calories for carbs. A small bump in calories is fine, but I don’t want to go overboard.
I’m not sure what this means for my Village Inn dinner tonight. I normally get Canadian bacon, an egg white omelette, cottage cheese and wheat toast. I’ll need to swap one or more of those three proteins for a carb I guess. It’ll totally confuse my waitress since I ALWAYS get the same thing.
Other things I’ll need consider over the next few days:
– Increasing water with electrolytes prior to race day.
– Limit high fiber foods in the 2-3 days before the race to minimize the risk of GI upset and to limit the “bulk” I may be carrying with me. We’ll just leave that there, other than to say I’ve discovered in this training cycle that my stomach on running does not like whole wheat bagels in the morning. This should be interesting because I eat A LOT of fruits and veggies.
– Two to four hours before the race, I’ll eat a pre-race meal containing about 0.5 – 1 gram of carbohydrates for every pound of body weight, with the lower end of that range since I’ll probably eat 2 hours before race time based on my practice runs. This is again consistent with the recommendations in Eat to Peak.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of overeating or undereating when you have a history like mine. At least with running all of these races, I have a lot of chances to practice pre-race nutrition, right? Do you have trouble figuring out what to eat before a race?