Aiveen Connolly – B.Sc. M.Sc. SENr

In the previous series (which you can read here) we talked through why carbohydrates are important and fuelling our bodies with carbohydrates pre-exercise. In this series, we will talk through what to avoid, and intra race nutrition.

There are a couple of things to limit and avoid prior to a race/event. Firstly, limit excess fat and fibre intake. The reason for this is too much fat and fibre may cause gut issues for some athletes, i.e. diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach discomfort, constipation.

High fat foods include processed meats (salami, bacon, sausages, pepperoni), heavy creamy sauces, nuts, seeds, avocados. Fibre rich sources include beans, oats, lentils & vegetables.

Avoid excess protein intakes as this is more so needed after exercise for recovery than before exercise where we need fuel and energy from carbohydrates. And lastly avoid trendy diets that may be circulating around social media, like detox teas, juice cleanse, fat loss tablets, etc. Save your money!

The morning of race day, it is recommended that carbohydrate intakes should be between 1-4g per kilogram of body weight, 1-4 hrs before the event. The closer the event is, the smaller the meals should be.

For endurance events less than 60mins, other than water, there is no need to consume high carbohydrate foods and fluids during the race, provided you Carbohydrate Loaded the day before and the morning off (2-4hrs prior to your race). Ensure you practice your race day nutrition in your training sessions. 

Intra race fuelling requires a bit of planning and preparation.  It is recommended, for athletes participating in events lasting 90-120mins, to consume 60-75g of carbohydrates per hour of exercise to keep glycogen stores topped up. For athletes participating in events lasting longer than 2.5hrs, this needs to be increased to 90-120g of carbohydrates per hour of exercise.

Sports gels and sports drinks are common intra race nutrition foods and fluids athletes typically go for. Sports gels are basically highly concentrated carbohydrate and energy sources. Typically, one carbohydrate gel contains 20-25g of carbohydrates per sachet. Always take a sports gel with roughly 90-180ml of water and never on its own or with a sports drink. Without water, the sports gel will take longer to digest. The number of gels to consume during a race depends on the duration of exercise.

An alternative to sports gels is a sports drink, like Lucozade Sport, which in a 500ml bottle contains roughly 32g of carbohydrates. Practice intra race fuelling during your training sessions and not the day of your event/race as you may risk experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms. The best way to go about knowing your fuelling and nutrition strategies prior to your event, is through trial and error during training sessions. There is no one approach that suit all as everyone responds differently to foods and training regimes. Avoid taking new supplement products during your race if you have never used them before. Trial what carbohydrate foods and sports supplements you like and what agrees with you but also ones that help you reach your carbohydrate requirements.

Keep an eye out for part 3 of the Carbohydrate series as we discuss post exercise recovery with some resources to post exercise snack options. If you want access to a constant stream of FREE high quality educational sports nutrition & dietetics insights, you can subscribe to our newsletter here.

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