And so to the vexed question of what to eat on race day…………….. Do you carb load………….? How much? What do you have for breakfast? When…………….? What do you eat afterwards? Really?
Only a cursory glance on the internet and there are hundreds of learned articles that talk you through it from a scientific perspective – so I am not going to even try here……………. But what I would add is a theme that cuts through most articles – do what works for you! Personally this means I don’t change very much at all. I don’t like running with a full tummy – so I make sure I eat well the day before – but I don’t do any carb loading – I just make sure there is a good balance of foods including some carbs and protein. On race day it’s always the same – a yogurt and some good old fashioned Soreen Malt Loaf about an hour before the run. And that’s it – I’ve run a marathon following these rules – as I say – It works for me.
Whilst I was training for my first marathon in 2014 – I was trained and supported through the process by the wonderful Sarah Russell (http://sarah-russell.co.uk/). She taught me so much and, through subsequent years her words often come back to me. In taking on the 12 half marathons in 12 months challenge – I have revisited her words of wisdom about re-fuelling – particularly after a race…………. Her article on nutrition can be found in full on the Sarah’s Runners FaceBook page – but her thoughts about refuelling are reproduced here:
The ability to recover quickly from a training session is essential, and this is where nutrition really comes into it’s own. Fail to re-fuel correctly after a run, and you’re likely to feel sluggish, weary and lacking in energy – not exactly ideal preparation for your next session. And that’s not to mention the increased risk of picking up a cold or an injury. Eat the right thing immediately after running and you’ll reap the benefits, feel full of energy and be raring to go for your next run.
After exercise, you have a window of about 1 hour (the first 30 minutes in particular) where your muscles are most receptive to being re-stocked with glycogen. If you don’t re-fill your fuel tank within that window, your body (rather like your car) won’t have enough energy for the next journey, particularly if you’re running every day.
Running for 75 minutes at about 80% maximum heart rate (MHR) results in almost complete glycogen depletion but with shorter runs of 45 minutes or so, you’ll only dip into your glycogen stores. Your re-fuelling strategy should therefore match the duration and intensity of your run. Experts also recommend that the post race snack or meal should also be relatively low fat and include some protein to aid muscle recovery; it should not just be based on carbohydrate alone.
Here are some ideas for your perfect post-run snack:
Toasted crumpet with peanut butter and jam
Fruit smoothie made with banana, yoghurt and honey
Porridge made with milk, honey and raisins
Chocolate milkshake and a banana
Now basically this is really good news for those of us who enjoy our food as – so long as it’s done thoughtfully and not to excess – a race is a good opportunity to have something really delicious afterwards. These are some of my favourite post-race recovery snacks:
Banana, Cranberry and Chocolate Muffins
4oz butter melted
Stir in 8oz of soft brown sugar
Put into a mixer with 3-4 ripe bananas and 4 tablespoons of yogurt
Then add 2 eggs and
12oz Self Raising Flour (could add some wholemeal if you wish – and the also work well with Gluten Free flour if that’s your thing) and a teaspoon of bicarb
A bar of chocolate cut into chunks
And 4oz dried cranberries
Mix up and divide into muffin tins and bake for about 15 mins at 180 degrees.
So yummy – and they really hit the mark for me! They used to be a post run regular on Sunday mornings! After a race – again a bit of a ritual – 2 poached eggs on toast – and that’s it – back to normal eating – I’ll test the formula out over the next 10 months……………………..