Guest Column by Angela Moore, MS, RD of FitLife of Colorado
What to eat, what not to eat? When to eat and how much to eat? Should I drink energy replacement fluids during a race or just water? These are some of the questions elite and “weekend” athletes ask themselves when heading into a competitive event. For us “Alley Loopers”, this event is right around the corner so let’s be prepared.
Did you know that most athletes experience some type of gastrointestinal distress at one time or another in training and competition? This leads some individuals to restrict food and eat very little or not at all before and during a race. Unfortunately, restricting food will not fix the problem. Like training your muscles, you need to train your system to use and tolerate food and water. You need to fuel wisely to perform optimally!
Whether you are an elite athlete or someone who enjoys an occasional weekend race and an opportunity to push yourself, there are some important guidelines to keep in mind when selecting pre-race foods and beverages:
- Eat familiar foods, nothing new. Schedule workouts and training sessions here and there to mimic the competitive event. Experiment with solids vs liquids, sweet and salty or savory, whole foods or bars, gels and gummies.
- If you know you’ll be nervous or jittery before an event, eat really well the day before and a later dinner or bedtime snack. You want those muscles to be fueled.
- Sometimes liquids are better than solids. Experiment with different sugar solutions. Some are easier to tolerate than others. Make sure they are not too concentrated as there will be a delay gastric emptying. Also, sugar alcohols like xylitol and sorbitol can cause gas, bloating, and GI distress for some people.
- If you are traveling to an event, bring some of your own foods that are tried and true. If you don’t plan and are forced to eat out you could end up with a meal that doesn’t sit well in your system.
- Make sure you drink lots of water the day before the event. One problem with Nordic skiing is you are typically outside in a very cold climate and your thirst mechanism is often compromised. Dehydration can really affect your performance. The day of the event drink 2-4 MLs per pound of body weight 2-4 hours beforehand. Make sure you are hydrating with time to void. A 150 lb. person would need about 300-600 MLs (10-20 ounces). This would be a mug of coffee or tea and a glass of water.
- Your last big meal should be about 4 hours before the race. Choose mostly carbohydrates with some lean protein. Fat takes the longest to empty from the GI tract.
- Trained individuals seem to have less GI distress than untrained so make sure you’re ready for that event and have trained enough.
- Caffeine can give you edge and is a popular energizer in moderate amounts. It can however increase GI motility so be careful how much you drink.
- Too much fiber can really backfire. Several days before an event you may want to cut back on high fiber foods like some fruits, vegetables and legumes.
- Undiagnosed food sensitivities or intolerances may be something to investigate with a registered dietitian if you have GI issues that don’t resolve.
Ready to learn more or schedule your personal nutrition consultation with Angela?