Trail running: what should I eat before a race?
Who hasn’t experienced niggling digestive problems before a race or cravings as they push themselves to perform? Diet is as important as training, particularly as race day approaches. Let’s focus on what to eat on the eve of a trail run and on the day itself.
A trail run is not to be taken lightly. Unlike a road race or sports in general, it’s a discipline with a reputation for being physically punishing. It takes a different type of energy intake to cope with the gradient that comes with the natural and mountainous surroundings. You need to adapt your diet in a way that enables you to respond to these demands without running the risk of digestive problems that will hamper your performance. It can be difficult to strike the right balance, yet it’s best to stick with simple meals that you have already tried and tested. It’s not the moment to experiment with a new type of food that your body isn’t familiar with.
Things to consider
Diet varies from one individual to another, but it also depends of the type of race you have to run. The build of the runner, the distance, the in-race nutrition plan, the weather… All of these will influence your choice of diet. The advice in this post is general and should be adapted to meet the demands of what actually awaits you. It’s clear that a 30k and an 80k race won’t need the same energy input.
The day before the run
Eating starchy foods is important as this will build up the store of energy that you can tap into the following day. At the same time, it’s important not to eat too much. Pasta will be your best ally accompanied by white meat and a few cooked vegetables (tiny portions as they are rich in fibre). The vegetables should be peeled and without seeds. The perfect way to round off the meal is with a home-made compote (stewed fruit) without sugar or a plain fromage blanc (soft cheese) dessert.
The day of the run
Your last meal before the start is very important. Race-day stress can mean that your digestive system plays tricks on you. As a result, you need to eat 3 to 4 hours before the start to ensure that your body is not using energy to digest as you set off. Eat light. Choose ingredients that are easy to digest. Avoid foods rich in fibre, in sugar and in fat. Opt for lean meat, rice, cooked vegetables, a compote (stewed fruit) and a plain yoghourt.
Don’t forget that all-important corner stone of your diet : hydration. Drinking water, particularly in the days leading up to a race, will help you avoid cramp or the sudden onset of fatigue and create optimum conditions for your muscles to perform. With these general tips, you should be ready to perform free from digestive problems on the day of the race. What happens next is up to you!