Food is FUEL! But so is water, sleep, and time off from training. Here are five ways you can actually enhance your race training with proper fueling!
Let’s start with one simple fact: fueling does not have to be complicated. Start by considering the length of your training. Fueling becomes more sophisticated the more you train, the longer you run, and the harder you work. However, training for the Warrior Dash or a 5K, where most of your effort is moderate to hard with the duration under 40 minutes or so, should be relatively simple.
The best advice we could give would be to listen to your body. Your body is a pretty good gauge as to whether what you’re doing is working! Keep track of your food, water, sleep, and workouts throughout your training. Do all of your experimenting before race day to see how your body responds. That way, you’ll have the perfect recipe for race day.
Best Ways to Fuel Your Training
Your body needs sleep to repair! Be sure to get plenty of sleep on the nights before you train. Sleep will not only help your muscles recover from your work, but will also help you stay healthy in the weeks leading up to the big day. To find the optimal amount of sleep you need, go to bed naturally and wake up naturally (without an alarm clock). You’ll want to aim for this amount of sleep whenever possible. As you head toward race day, it’s important to get the most sleep TWO nights prior, because the night before you’re typically anxious, which will affect your sleep no matter what.
See Also: Importance of Sleep During Race Training
2. Eat a Light Breakfast (or Snack)
You should aim to eat about 2 hours prior to your run. Keep your food choices simple and stick to those foods you know you tolerate. Be sure your meal/snack is high energy, easily digestible, and approximately 200-400 calories. Some good options:
- Oatmeal with almonds
- Strawberries and low-fat yogurt
- Whole-wheat toast with natural peanut butter
This vitamin B packed meal has been proven to help build as well as repair muscles and red blood cells. Even better, vitamin B helps convert protein and sugars into energy, which you’ll need!
Water is probably the most important fueling strategy during training and race prep. You should aim to drink at least 17-20 ounces of water 2-3 hours prior to your run and then another 7-10 ounces 10-20 minutes before. Of course, if you’re training or racing in the morning, that might be tough! Be aware of your water intake the night before (especially if you’re enjoying any adult beverages which can lead to dehydration). While training for a 5K, most of your runs (including your race) shouldn’t take much longer than 30 minutes. But if they do, plan to drink 7-10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes if you can.
Some think that caffeine should be avoided during training, but the research is starting to paint a different picture for your favorite morning beverage (yay!). Moderate caffeine intake can help stimulate the nervous system in ways that enable your muscles to contract faster and produce more energy. It also may help to delay fatigue, which makes training and racing more tolerable. Of course, if you don’t tolerate caffeine well, it’s probably not a great idea to start now. And if you’re drinking coffee in the morning, be sure that you do so early enough to get a pit stop in before you head out the door for your run!
While most emphasis is placed on what you do before you run, what you do directly after is equally important. The post-exercise meal is crucial for recovery and improves your ability to train consistently. Be sure to replace lost fluids immediately after. A safe bet is a large 8-12 ounces of water when you’re done. Then, replace the calories you lost with a small meal or snack. Focus on a snack that combines carbohydrates, protein, and fat to help your muscles recover. Keep in mind: The number of calories burned during 30 minutes of running doesn’t give you permission to over-indulge! Replace responsibly.
You may think that training MORE will be helpful. But it’s quite the opposite. Make sure you are pacing your training and providing your body a day off in between your runs if at all possible. Supplement the mileage you’re logging with stretching, strength training, and at least one complete day off each week!