I love the fall for so many reasons, and one of them is that marathons are in full swing. So many of my athletes have been training all year for this "A Race," so it is exciting to see what they accomplish. One question I often get from my marathoners is how they should be changing eating the week of the marathon. Here are a few tips to keep in mind during the 7-day countdown:
1. Know the course
I really hope you didn't wait until 7 days out to check the course, but I suppose now is better than race morning. Check the course online so you know where the aid stations are and what they will be handing out at each station. At which mile is the energy gel? Are the products being handed out ones that you have trained with and know you tolerate? If not, you need to come up with a plan B. You shouldn't be using ANY new products on race day. Know the course - and know it as soon as possible.
2. Hydrate, but not how you think
In the 7 days prior, you should be already working hard at hydration. However, don't just hydrate using plain water. Many athletes over-do it with water and end up diluting their electrolyte concentration, which can cause cramping and dehydration on race day. This means that at meals, instead of just plain water, drink milk and juice, which contain electrolytes. Starting 1-2 days out, add additional electrolytes into the hydration mix, through sports drink or electrolyte tabs. This will help buffer your electrolyte levels heading into race day. Finally, I recommend athletes stop all alcohol at least 7 days out because it can be extremely dehydrating, with these and other negative performance effects lasting multiple days after consumption.
3. Decrease roughage
Beginning 1-2 days out, considering decreasing intake of raw vegetables and whole wheat products. These products are high in fiber, which can cause intestinal upset on race day. Note that some athletes are significantly more sensitive to too much fiber pre-race than others, so practice what works best for you. While some athletes cut out all high fiber foods, others purposely load their pre-race meal with fiber because that is what feels best to them.
4. Stick to what you know
Don't introduce new foods, new liquids, new snacks, new restaurants or new sports products race week or race day. You can wait 7 days to try something new. It isn't worth causing issues on race day.
5. Don't carb up
Well...at least not how you think. Many athletes believe they should "carb up" by consuming a carbohydrate-loaded meal the night before the race. Instead, carb up by doing the following:
-Starting 3 days out, increase your carbohydrate intake higher than usual, but focus on increasing your intake from fruits and grains vs. sweets.
-Your last high-carb meal should actually be breakfast the day before the race. This will help to assure carb stores in the muscle are high going into race-day, but that you don't feel too heavy on race day itself. Sometimes carb-ing up so close to race time can mean too much water on board (carb is stored with water) and translate into a heavy, slow feeling when running.
-Lunch and dinner the day before the race as well as breakfast on race day should STILL contain carbohydrate, but in your usual amounts.
Follow the above the week of your race, and you will be setting the pace for a great performance!
Your Nutrition Coach,