You have been preparing for it for weeks, exercising early in the morning and late after work, pinching your sweet tooth and ordering a glass of water instead of a cocktail in the bar, and now it’s here: competition day! You’re nervous and excited, staring helplessly into the refrigerator and wondering what is best for you to eat.
Don’t worry: with these nutrition tips you will achieve your best performance in the next competition.
Train your digestive system for optimal performance in competition
You should know what you will be consuming, how much, when and how often during the competition.
Most runners can tolerate 30 g of carbohydrates per hour, while cyclists can tolerate up to 40 g per hour. Did you know that increasing your carbohydrate intake is likely to improve your competitive performancen? Cyclist* You can train your digestive system to take in 100g of carbohydrates per hour. Runners, on the other hand, can only eat a limited amount of carbohydrates because the food stresses the stomach while running. However, 60 g per hour is not uncommon for top athletes.
This is how you train your digestive system
Test your competition nutrition plan on the basis of a few central training units. Try to mimic the conditions of your competition as closely as possible. Pay attention to things like time of day, temperature, humidity, terrain, etc.
It’s best to start with 30 g of carbohydrates per hour and see how your stomach is doing with it. Also make a note of how the training went. If it went well, you can increase the amount of carbohydrates by 10 g during the next test run. Keep doing this until you’ve determined the maximum amount of carbohydrates that will allow you to perform at your best.
Competition nutrition 3 weeks before the race
When preparing for a competition, proper nutrition should not be left behind. But this begins long before the competition: You have to build up a routine here too and train your digestive system. So you are well prepared on the day of the race and can put all your energy into the competition.
Find here you Nutritional strategies of top athletes.
Make sure to use the same products in training that you want to consume during competition. You shouldn’t try any new products on the day of the competition itself!
Competition nutrition 3–4 hours before the start
Immediately after waking up, drink about 500 ml of water so that your body goes with it Rehydration process can begin. After urinating a second time, use a color chart to check your urine to see how much more you should drink. Ideally, your urine is only slightly yellowish throughout the day. Warning: Certain foods and vitamins can affect the color of your urine.
However, don’t drink too much to avoid overhydration. If your urine is as clear as water, it is a sign that you have ingested too much fluids.
Tip: You should pay attention to a balanced diet and sufficient fluids every day and not just on competition days!
Warning: you will have to urinate a lot in the hours before the competition. On the one hand, because you have to drink enough fluids, but also because you will probably be a little nervous. Keep this in mind, especially if finding a toilet quickly could be difficult.
Now that you have hydrated your body, it is time to eat something. What and how much you eat depends on various factors:
- Individual needs
- Duration / distance of the run
- Intensity of competition
The shorter and more intense the race, the less and sooner you should eat. The longer and more intense the competition, the more and scarcerly you should eat before the start.
The last meal before the race is to replenish your glycogen stores. They should be completely filled on the day of the competition. Therefore, it is a bad idea to eat fewer calories (especially carbohydrates) in the weeks leading up to a competition.
You should finish your last meal three hours before competition. If you have a sensitive stomach, it should be 4 hours (this is especially true for runners).
- 5K – 10K: a very light meal. Toast, oatmeal, and a source of protein like an egg or yogurt.
- Half marathon: the same as for 5K – 10K. Ideally, you won’t be hungry at the end of the race, but you shouldn’t feel too full either. For example, you could add some nut butter to the toast mentioned above.
- For breakfast, prefer foods that do little fiber and provide a lot of carbohydrates (more than 100g). You should have tried this a few weeks before the competition. If the competition starts very early, it is advisable to prepare breakfast the evening before so that you do not have to rush into the morning of the race. Some bread with nut butter, muesli with plant-based milk, an omelette made from two eggs or rice-based dishes will all provide you with good fuel for the competition.
- Ultramarathon: Eat and drink a lot. You should eat as much as possible here without burdening your stomach. So, in order to get the right amount of food, you have to experiment a little. You should be prepared for the fact that in the course of this training you will sometimes go beyond your limits and overwhelm your stomach – this is part of this process and completely normal.
- Competitions under an hour: a very light, low-fiber meal. Make sure you drink enough. Eat little protein and prefer low-fiber carbohydrates.
- Competitions lasting 2 to 5 hours: 200g or more of carbohydrates (as much as you can handle) plus something high in protein like yogurt or two eggs.
- Competitions lasting more than 5 hours: eat a lot. You should have a large, balanced meal. (Unless you plan to pedal most of the route at high intensity in this race.) Here, nutrition will also play a central role during the competition, as you burn off the energy from the pre-race meal after about 2 hours will have.
Nutrition tip: 1 hour before you start
You may be full from your pre-competition meal. Eat something with a medium glycemic index, such as a banana. This is to keep your glycogen stores as full as possible. Drink some water.
Nutrition tip: 30–45 minutes before you start
Start by warming up. Take a few sips of water over and over again.
After the first few quick sprints, take a sports gel or a few sips of one Sports drink to you.
Nutrition tip: 15 minutes before you start
Go to the bathroom again. From this point on, you shouldn’t ingest anything, including liquids. Having dry mouth doesn’t mean you need fluids, you are just nervous. Don’t worry: you are well hydrated and ready to give your all!
Do a few now Breathing exercises and a short meditationto stay calm and focused.
We have summarized the ideal nutritional strategy for you in this table:
|Time until the competition||You should eat and drink that|
|After waking up||~ 500ml water|
|3-4 hours to start||Toast and cereal. Fruit juice. Some water.|
|1 hours to the start||Banana. Some water.|
|30 minutes to the start||Drink a high GI (carbohydrate) sports drink AFTER several sprints while warming up|
What to eat while running
If you are on the road for more than 1 hour, it makes sense to supply energy. This works best with home-made sports drinks and small ones Snacks that contain mostly carbohydrates. But remember to try this out on your training runs as well. Your digestive system needs to get used to these things as well.
- Iso drinks
- dry biscuits
- Sports gels
- Gummy bears (with a glucose-fructose ratio of 1–2: 1)
For every hour of the competition, try to consume 30-80g of carbohydrates and drink ~ 500ml of water or a sports drink. However, you should have already practiced this during your preparation for the competition. Only eat as much food or liquid during a race as you did during training.
Try to repeat every 15-20 minutes to drink small sips of water or water mixed with a nutrient mix. Iso drinks are ideal here, as they compensate for fluid and electrolyte losses. Refreshment stations do not always offer the desired drinks. Take precautions, for example by taking your own hydration pack with you.
You should know the racetrack well and ideally know where it is possible or necessary to eat something. To do this, select sections that are less demanding. Food is processed more efficiently when your body is not working at full speed. Therefore, it is not a good idea to have something to eat during particularly difficult sections.
If you know the route well, you can prepare well for difficult sections. For example, eat something 15-30 minutes before critical stretches of the route. This can be, for example, inclines or, if you are very competitive, places where other participants in the competition will step on the gas and dispute your position. If you find that your mood is going bad, eat and drink!
You can use the food intake as a drive for yourself during the course of the route. Break the race down into smaller, more manageable sections. For example, you can look forward to having a drink at the end of a difficult section. This can give you the motivation you need to get through a difficult moment.
Make sure you only consume “unhealthy” foods like gels, sports drinks and even sweets during the race and during very intense training sessions. Limit yourself to healthy foods for the rest of the time.
What to eat after the competition
Post-race diet is less important unless you have to race or start training again soon. Eat a normal, balanced meal if you take a few days off before you have to start training or racing again. Having an alcoholic drink after a race can be a great way to celebrate your performance, but have water with it and limit yourself to one drink.
If you need to focus on post-race nutrition to recover quickly, then simply have a sports drink that has 25 grams of protein and more than 40 grams of carbohydrates. Drink this drink within an hour of the race. Eat a normal meal when you feel ready for it. Keep drinking water.
If the race was less than an hour and not very intense, don’t overeat. Eat enough but not too much!