by Susan K. Wilkerson, RD, LD Clinical Dietitian at Lexington Medical Center
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers South Carolina 5K Run & Walk, presented by Lexington Medical Center, is this Friday night. What should I eat? What should I drink? These are great questions and what you eat and drink need to be practiced before race day. Not all foods work for everyone. Find out what works best for you.
Eat breakfast! Even though the race is in the evening, do not skip meals. Breakfast and lunch should be what you usually eat. If you don’t usually eat breakfast and lunch, start practicing and eat something small and light. Stay away from spicy and greasy foods that can give you GI distress the rest of the day and set you up for a miserable race.
The race is in the evening and pretty close to dinnertime for most of us. So practice running a few days in the evening at 7:30 p.m. (race time) and play around with meal timing. Did eating dinner beforehand help or did it make you feel sluggish? Typically eating a light meal 2-3 hours or a large meal 3-4 hours before your race keeps the upset stomach at bay and still gives you the energy you need to finish the race. The race is short and you do not need to eat during the race. Some people eat a light snack 30 minutes before the race with some water and then eat their dinner afterwards. Avoid high fat and simple sugars before the race… stay away from the candy vending machine! Plan ahead.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! It’s still hot and humid the first week of September. Drink plenty of water all day long. Your urine should be pale and plentiful unless you take a multivitamin which turns the urine dark. Coffee and tea are okay in moderation as long as you continue to drink water. Sports drinks contain sugar and electrolytes. They are meant to replace the electrolytes lost when someone is sweating for a long period of time (more than an hour). Do not drink sports drinks during the day. You will get the electrolytes you need from the variety of foods eaten throughout the day.
Nutrition after the race is just as important as before the race. Recovery and refueling helps repair the body tissue damaged during exercise. Carbohydrates and protein are the best recovery fuel. Carbohydrates replace the glycogen stores (your ready-to-go-energy) that is lost during exercise. Carbohydrates also help the body use the protein to repair damaged tissue. As you prepare for running the race, you need to practice your nutrition and hydration before race day, too.