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Race Nutrition by Ricky Lightfoot

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Race Nutrition by Ricky Lightfoot

What do you eat before a big race?


This is a question I’m asked a lot and the answer is simple really, “carbo loading” calories and food high in carbohydrate, without going too deep into it my pre raceday food it usually consists of food like pasta, pizza, vegetables and fruit but nine times out of ten I usually eat what’s readily available to me in the local restaurant and what’s given by the organisation and in some cases that’s not much.

Carbo loading can begin 3-4 days before the event and its more efficient for me to include a little carbohydrate in every meal leading up to the event rather than have one big bowl of pasta the night before, as quite often I have found myself to overeat the night before and the food is then not fully digested before I start running the next day.

Being fully hydrated beforehand is really important especially if it’s a long race, I’m not a big drinker but when I’ve got a race coming up I try and drink 4-5 pints a day with a little electrolytes, I use High 5 Zero tablets.

Things to keep in mind in the days leading up to the race

Stay away from dairy, caffeine and alcohol – they’ll only dehydrate you, well, a little alcohol is ok as it’ll calm your pre-race nerves.

Oats are great as they release energy slowly, try and include this into your nutrition plan leading up to the race.

Make sure you’ve rehearsed you pre-race meal, don’t try anything new in the lead up to the race. Same goes for the race day, those sweets at the aid station look tempting but it could be something that upsets your stomach and finishes your race early.

I remember my first time out at the Kinabalu Climbathon in Borneo, Malaysia in 2009, I travelled pretty light to get there so didn’t take any food or race nutrition with me, I settled for the bunk house accommodation food which was a boiled egg, a couple of sausages (meat unknown) and some rice and dried fish – after this I never made the same mistake again.

This is why it's useful to have some of your own supplies in your bag, I usually take my own porridge (for overnight oats) and a selection of energy bars from High 5 and Protien bars from Prime, the latter of which are great for post-run recovery when you need something quick.

During the Race

How much I take with me during the race usually depends on a few things:

  • The distance of the race
  • The feed stations and distances in between them
  • Support on the race (if permitted)
  • And the temperature come raceday

My raceday nutrition usually changes from race to race but mainly relies on my support getting food and water to me and the food at the feed stations, this is so I don’t waste energy on carrying extra weight from start to finish especially if you can get it en route somewhere.

I usually start the race with water (with some electrolytes), High 5 hydrating gels, energy bars, Nut Bombs (Seed & nut energy ball) and Salt Sticks (Anti-cramp electrolyte salt capsules)

After the first hour I try to eat and drink every 30 minutes so I’m not going too long with out getting some nutrition, if you leave it too long it can be too late and difficult to recover from, little and often is the most efficient.

During the race you should never become thirsty as this means you are already becoming dehydrated.

I try to avoid caffeine until the closing stages of the race, usually the final 10-20km where I need that hit quickly, I use RedBull and always have some available with my support crew.

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