For many athletes – whether they are long-distance runners or bikers or athletes heading back to school – the fall is usually when they are hitting their peak and planning for their longest races. Whether you’re heading out for a half-marathon, running the entire 26.2 miles or doing a century ride on your bike, proper nutrition is necessary on the big day. The same goes for younger athletes preparing for game day.
During training, there’s a lot of focus on stretching, doing warm-ups and increasing speed and endurance to make sure your body is ready for the big day. Nutrition is just as important. Without the proper fuel, you won’t be able to do your best.
Hydration is important for all athletes. Make sure you drink plenty of water before the race (or game) begins and then keep the liquids flowing. Runners, make sure to grab water or a sports drink at all water stops. Depending on the day’s temperature and humidity, your body will need a lot of fluids to make it to the finish line or end of practice. A good rule of thumb is to drink four to eight ounces of water every 15 minutes of exercise.
Athletes are often confused about what to eat. Start off by adding extra calories to your meals in the days leading up to the big run or game. The extra calories should be a mix of proteins and carbs, such as whole grains, starchy veggies and fruits. Make the extra calories count; don’t waste them on cookies or ice-cream.
On the day before the event, don’t eat anything new or different since you don’t want to throw your digestive system for a loop. Eat a lot of “good” carbs and aim for a nice dinner of whole wheat pasta for dinner. All of those carbs working together will give your body the fuel it needs.
Eat a balanced breakfast at least one hour before the race or game starts. The meal should include a mix of complex carbs and protein, which work together to give you the energy you need. Don’t overeat – just enough to settle that feeling of hunger. By eating well in the days leading up to the race, your body will have the energy stores it needs to make it to the finish line.
Fueling your body with the right foods and plenty of water is necessary for success and will make sure those months of training will pay off once the race begins.
Kayla Pfeiffer is a licensed athletic trainer with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care at ThedaCare Medical Center-New London.