The HOW TO Prepare Guide: Before/During/After Training
and Racing

By Breanne Nalder, MS, RDN
PLAN7 Endurance Coaching Dietitian and Nutrition Coach


BEFORE
The pre-meal should be 2-4 hours before start time, and should consist of mostly carbohydrates, with moderate proteins anf fats. A high-fat, high-protein meal just before exercise will delay digeston and slow carbohydrate release, and may also cause discomfort during exercise. The size of pre-event meals will vary based on energy needs, intensity level of competiton, duration of exercise, gender, and body size. The following meals offer some guidelines and give you some examples of foods to consider.

Breakfasts ideas

  • Oatmeal or cereal with almond milk (add nuts and fresh or dried fruit for more flavor and energy)
  • Toast, English muffin, or a rice cake with 1-2 Tbsp PB, honey, and sliced banana and 4-8 ounces 100% orange juice
  • Eggs (only 1 yolk if any) on toast with salt/pepper, and a smoothie with fresh/frozen fruit, banana, almond milk

Lunch ideas

  • Sandwich with turkey, avocado, veggies OR Almond butter and banana; 15-20 pretzels/ crackers; 1 cup 100% juice or sport drink
  • Pasta or rice bowl with tuna, chicken, or garbanzo beans. Use cooked veggies add vinaigrette dressing or soy sauce, a piece of fruit, and water
  • Baked potato or sweet potato with olive oil/salt/pepper, 1⁄2 cup of nuts/trail mix, apple, water
  • Wrap or pita with chicken or tuna salad (try making with hummus or avocado instead of mayonnaise), cucumber, mini carrots, a couple baked chips and salsa

DURING
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source during exercise. Dietary carbohydrates (grains, fruit, starchy veggies, juice and sport drinks) are stored in the liver and in the muscle as glycogen. During exercise, these glycogen stores fuel working muscles. How soon we run out of energy depends on workout intensity. So, hard and intense workouts decrease glycogen stores more quickly than moderate exercise bouts. Glycogen stores are limited, so during exercise lasting more than 60-90 minutes choose foods you prefer and can tolerate. 30-60g of carb/hour will help keep you fueled and feeling strong.

Consuming carbohydrates while exercising can help improve
performance by:

  • Reducing risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Providing fuel for actively working muscles
  • Sparing protein (you don’t want your body to start breaking down muscle for energy)
  • Preventing “bonking” or “hitting the wall” which can force you to slow down or stop

A few tips on choosing nutrition DURING exercise:

  • Practice your nutrition plan before trying new foods in competition! You don’t want to find out on race day that your stomach doesn’t tolerate a particular gel, chew, or sport drink.
  • Stay hydrated! Set a timer to teach yourself to drink something every 20 minutes. If you use sport drinks and gels, you are likely getting the carbohydrates and electrolytes you need and don’t even have to pack food in your pockets.
  • Avoid “over-nutrition” both before and during competition!  Sticking to to the 30-60g CHO per hour Keep your pre-race meal moderate in protein and low in fat
  • Limit high-fiber foods, NSAIDS, alcohol, caffeine, antibiotics, & other medications around exercise. Save yourself stomach upset by waiting until after your work out. That’s more likely when you’ll enjoy those things anyway!

AFTER
It is crucial to refill your gas tank after you have burned through the fuel, right? Same for our bodies. In fact, we have a 30 minute window for recovery nutrition so that the body can efficiently rebuild and prepare for the next training bout or race. Not recovering properly leads to fatigue and decreased performance. Help your body replenish lost fluid and nutrients, repair damaged tissue, and prepare for the next workout with the right recovery foods.
Aim for the following amounts of each essential nutrient:

  • Fluids: 1.5 L for every kg lost in sweat
  • Electrolytes: 0.3-0.7 g sodium/L of fluid
  • Carbohydrates: 1.2 g/kg immediately after for 4-6 hrs
  • Protein: 0.4 g/kg every 30 min for 3-5 hrs in combination with CHO (0.8 g/kg)