When you first start racing and you come to “race day” you want to, even when the most amateur of beginners, do something special to help you have any advantage in the race. Most of us either eat too much, or way too little. Then we go hunting for what pros do, or articles or in the worst case take advice from other amateurs and the rumors of what’s best - ha!
If you haven’t yet noticed when it comes to training and nutrition there is boatloads of what I call “witch-dotorism.” There are lots of opinions and unproven prescriptions that can have you doing all kinds of weird stuff - or avoiding the right things.
ANYWAYS. What I’ve done is just focus on the very basics of what you need on race day - keeping it simple - and have found what I like. That’s what’s important - finding what works for your body in three areas:
- The kind of food / nutrition before a race.
- The timing of when you eat before the race.
- How much you eat before the race.
Kind of Food:
Don’t make this complicated. The only advice I’ll pass on came from Jeremy Powers Cross Camp video (which is brilliant by the way). Don’t eat things that repeat - that once you eat you could taste if you burp. Onions, garlic, bacon, spicy food - all this repeats and when you are in the pain cave in a race you don’t want to be tasting breakfast again.
I would also suggest thinking about your digestive system - how your’s reacts to certain foods - before you eat. If some foods create “movement” in your system at your desk job, then the nerves and jostling of race-prep will have you visiting the port-o-jons a lot. Coffee or caffeine can have this effect, as can too much fruit, or things with grease / fast food - not in everyone - but in some.
What I do - as just example - I like rice, eggs, and ham thrown in the skillet to braze as my breakfast. It fills me up, gives me solid carbs, and proteins/fats to start the slow burn energy that my body responds to really well in a race scenario. I will drink some OJ, and if enough time is before the race, I’ll have some coffee. Contrary to my normal routine, I WON’T have my multi-vitamin. Why? Because it takes really good hydration to process multi-vitamins and I don’t want to be drinking that much water before a race to be peeing like crazy, and yet still feel dry during the race.
Of course there is ideal timing, nice meal 3 hours before, then in last hour a gel or two. But sometimes you don’t get that. If I have my druthers I’ll eat the meal I put above 3–4 hours before race time and then 45–30 minutes before I’ll have another 200 calories or so of simple carbs. If I don’t get my way I often end up having a McDonalds McGriddle with egg, chese and ham. Perfect option? NOPE. But it’s got simple carbs and proteins and around 400+ calories and it doesn’t take long to get it down.
How much to eat:
You don’t need a glutenous Thanksgiving sized 4 course breafast, but you don’t need to skimp either. You want to refill the glycogen your body has lost from your liver (liver and muscles are what store your easy access energy) which is between 300 - 500 in calories. In my opinion you want to eat enough carbs to fill that and then another 200 –300 calories in protein or slow burn energy. All carbs and, for me, I’ll start getting hungry again soon. Adding in protein helps blood sugar to balance and I feel better going into the race.
You can’t go wrong with eggs and rice. I see those two foods all over cyclocross and pro racing as a part of their regular nutrition. Adding some tomatos or salsa can help with flavor. But experiement with what is easy and doable for you on race day. For me, I’ve just adjusted this - in different proportions - into my every day routine.
What do you do before race day?