Recipe for Race-Day Success - Page 2
Most elite athletes consider nutrition throughout their training cycles, and pay extra close attention to it during the week leading up to race day. Count Jasper Halekas as one of them. Halekas, who won the 2007 USATF Trail 100-Mile National Championship, is as meticulous about his training as he is during his day job as Research Scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, Space Sciences Lab.
"For most of the week, I stick to my normal training diet, which is high in protein and carbohydrates, and low in fats," he explains. "The biggest thing I focus on is pre-hydrating, and make a big effort to drink a lot."
One word of warning: "drinking a lot" doesn't mean chugging gallon jugs of water. "Some people drink a ton of water, which then flushes out all their electrolytes," Halekas, 31, warns, "Drink sports drink, especially for several days before the race, to tank up on electrolytes, too."
And what about adult beverages? "No way," he says. "In fact, I don't drink alcohol for at least three weeks before a major race." He feels that tactic is based more on superstition than actual performance.
Jim Rutberg, a professional coach and co-author (with Chris Carmichael of Carmichael Training Systems) of Food for Fitness, breaks through the voodoo. "There's no amount of alcohol that will benefit your performance," he says. "but having a glass of wine or a beer with dinner isn't likely to have a negative impact on your performance either."
He adds, "If you drink, stick with just one or two glasses of wine or beer and follow each with a full glass of water."
Darcy Africa, who in 2007 set new course records at the Bighorn and Cascade Crest 100-Mile Endurance Runs, stays consistent before a race. "I'm always focused on a healthy diet with lots of fruit, veggies, whole grains, protein," she says, "and if you change your diet before a race, you'll put your body off balance."
According to Rutberg, Africa has it right. "Pre-race is not the time to try out a new nutrition program."
"Ultimately the pre-race meal can make or break a race," says Brian Wyatt, a seasoned trail runner and Personal Training Manager at Crunch Fitness in San Francisco. "If you don't eat anything, you risk not having the fuel in the tank to perform, and if you eat the wrong thing you could have a very unpleasant experience."
Before the run rises on race day, most runners have already started their engines.
"It is very important to eat a complex-carb, low-glycemic-index and low-fiber meal two or three hours prior to the race start," says Wyatt. "This will top off your energy stores and keep your blood sugar stable."