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The Importance Of Fuelling Properly

I had a pretty disastrous experience at the Easter 10k a couple of weeks ago that really brought home to me the importance of fuelling properly for a race.

The race was a late start, 10:30am, due to the Bank Holiday. I had porridge for breakfast at around 7:30am, but having run out of bananas and peanut butter, my usual additions, it was a pretty poor affair and by the time I arrived at the start line I was already hungry.

I foolishly had not brought any snacks with me either, so after the first lap felt sick and awful. Unfortunately the race was 3 laps (generally a pretty unenjoyable setup, I much prefer one longer loop to keep you interested), and once I had the negative thoughts in my head I couldn’t pick myself up again. I got slower and slower, walked most of the last lap and finished in my slowest ever time, feeling rubbish. I was so slow they’d even run out of Creme Eggs at the finish line (which was clearly the point in running an Easter Race!), sad times.

Despite this, it has made me think more carefully about what I eat before and after a race, so thought I would put together a quick blog post underlining some of the important points.

Before A Race

Carb-loading

– Carb loading comes into effect any time you run more than 90mins, which will definitely be the case for my half marathon! This can just mean a slightly increased ratio of carbohydrates for the 2-3 days before the race, and not a significant increase in calories.

– It’s also important to drink lots of fluid in the days leading up to the event as well, so you start the race properly hydrated.

Pre-race breakfast 

The best pre-race breakfast consists mainly of carbohydrates, since they’re digested most rapidly and are your body’s preferred fuel source.

– It’s best to eat 2-3 hours before the race to allow time for digestion. Then an energy gel or quick snack 30-60mins before the race start will keep your energy levels high. 

 – Low-fiber, and low in fat and protein also mean the meal is easy to digest and doesn’t cause any stomach issues while running!
– Some of my favourite combinations include bagels/toast with peanut butter or Nutella, porridge with fruit, or an energy bar and a banana.

– It’s important to practise what works for you and stick with that on race morning!

During A Race

– Any longer than about 75minutes, and you begin to deplete your body’s glycogen stores. Your muscles run out of fuel, and your body starts to struggle. Consuming carbs mid-run can keep your blood sugar steady, so you don’t crash and burn. Don’t wait until you start to flag, fuel at regular intervals and before you need to.

– The first rule must be to practise your fuelling strategy in training. If a race is offering a certain brand of drinks or fuel on the course, then you can practise with those in your training runs. 

– A quality carbohydrate/electrolyte replacement drink is a good idea to avoid dehydration and can be sipped throughout the course. My preferred brand is Zero High 5, but I’ve heard lots of positive reviews of Nuun as well! This is especially important if it’s a hot day.

– Another way of taking on fuel is through energy gels or chews. They come packed with optimal carbohydrate and electrolytes, and can be easily carried until you require them. Different brands recommend taking their gels at different intervals- for me, every 45minutes works well, but practise to see what you prefer! I am particularly fond of the Salted Caramel Gu at the moment πŸ™‚

After A Race

– The first 30mins after a race are thought to be important, and consuming something with a 4:1 carbs to protein ratio can aid recovery.

– One of my favourite options is chocolate milk! It contains simple sugars for fast energy, and carbohydrates that are released a little slower, as well as protein for recovery and bone strengthening Vitamin D and calcium. Bananas are also awesome πŸ™‚

– For the next 48hours concentrate on eating plenty of carbohydrates and good quality protein to kick-start muscle repair.

What are your go-to race fuelling options? Have you ever had a fuelling “failure”?

Beki x

Sources:
http://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-runners/perfecting-your-prerace-food-strategy
http://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-for-runners/how-to-fuel-for-a-half-marathon
http://www.scienceinsport.com/sports-nutrition/sis-endurance-nutrition-running-nutrition-articles/running-half-marathon/
http://running.competitor.com/2012/03/nutrition/expert-advice-whats-the-best-way-to-refuel-after-a-half-marathon_48034
http://highfive.co.uk/high5-faster-and-further/running-nutrition-guides/half-marathon

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  • Reply Lucy L-J

    Hi Becki,
    Great post. I had an almighty failure at WOTN this weekend. I had a huge quinoa and roast veg salad about 5 hours before kick off, I thought I had timed things just right but in hindsight I think I should have had something much more 'simple' for lunch and eaten earlier with a small snack just before the race. Unfortunately I ended up feeling like I was 9 months pregnant for the duration of the race and then got home and was promptly sick! Not my finest moment. Will definitely think harder about my pre race fuelling in future!

    May 13, 2014 at 11:21 am
  • Reply Beki Cadd

    Oh no, sorry to hear you weren't well πŸ™ Eating the right things in the right quantity before running is such an art sometimes, it can go so wrong! Hope you still managed to enjoy the race x

    May 13, 2014 at 12:48 pm
  • Reply Lauren (@poweredbypb)

    I always swear by porridge, coconut oil and and chia seeds before a long run, or a banana before something shorter. I like to take on vega gels, dates or nakd bars for anything over 9-10 miles. I've always done this, but lately I've been reading/hearing a lot about our bodies actually using fat for slower endurance style running, so I've been starting to run fasted in the morning and not take any fuel on during runs, I'm up to about 8-10 miles at the minute and actually finding it easier than I would have thought. That said I would probably still fuel for a race.

    May 14, 2014 at 9:45 pm
  • Reply Beki Cadd

    Thanks for reading Lauren! This is really interesting actually, as my brother who is also training for the half, doesn't use any fuel during runs and hardly seems to eat anything beforehand and does ok… So I have been wondering if it's necessary! I guess it's whatever works for you. But I might give it a try after the race πŸ™‚ x

    May 15, 2014 at 8:28 am
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