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How to make sure your food doesn't come back to haunt you on race day!

by Editor
Wednesday 8th April 2015
Tags  Emma Barraclough   |   Sports Nutrition   |   SiS   |   Science in Sport   |   SiS GO Isotonic gels

You've done the training but are worried your stomach may throw a spanner in the works by grabbing all the attention come race day! Emma Barraclough, Senior Sport Nutritionist for Science in Sport, gives some advice:

One of the greatest fears of all runners is struggling with your stomach whilst you’re out on a training run and even more so during a race.

There are a few things you can do to try and minimise the risk of this, both in the days before and during your run that can help to make sure that you have an enjoyable experience and still get the energy in that you need.

What to eat

If you have a long run and are carbohydrate loading, the 48 hours before are key. As much as we recommend low GI carbs for a healthy balanced diet, switching to high GI carbs such as white rice, pasta, bread and potatoes is useful in this period. This change cuts the amount of fibre in your diet and causes an insulin response to encourage the build-up of your glycogen stores. Too much fibre can slow down the passage of food through your system, making it more likely that your breakfast or evening meal may come back to haunt you.

Maintain only a moderate amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet in these 48 hours to help keep a low fibre intake. Also try to avoid vegetables which naturally produce more gas in your gut, such as onions, peppers, leeks, especially when they are raw.

For your pre-race evening meal try and avoid too much protein, especially from fatty sources such as beef, lamb and processed meats such as sausage. This can slow the digestion of your meal and make your food slow to transit through your gut. Similarly avoid anything high in fat too, such as cheese-based sources on pasta, chips, and pastry. Many runners prefer to avoid anything spicy the night before also, and too much garlic can also cause issues for some people. Fizzy drinks are best avoided.

Timing is key

If you have an early start on race morning, try and have your dinner early too so that you can have an early night and not be going to bed on too full a stomach. Practice your pre-run breakfasts during your training so that you can be confident that you are happy with it. Try and give yourself at least two to three hours from your breakfast to the race start so that you plenty of time to allow it to digest. Avoid too many espressos with your breakfast, for while it can wake you up a bit, it can create GI Issues.

For your in-race nutrition, avoid simple sugars such as glucose and fructose were possible, as simple sugars create a higher osomality, meaning that you need more water with it to help it absorb properly. They also feed the bacteria in your gut more, which can lead to gas and bloating. SiS GO Isotonic gels for example are balanced to provide fast energy from maltodextrin that is easy on the stomach. The isotonic formula means that no additional fluid is required to help them absorb, and they are free of simple sugars. 

Don’t exceed more than 60g of carbohydrate per hour, as your body can only process this amount, and if you exceed this it will empty more slowly from your stomach, making you feel more bloated. And remember: practice your strategy during training to give yourself the best chance of a comfortable race.

Emma Barraclough is a Sports Nutritionist at SiS (www.scienceinsport.com). She has worked with Great Britain Ice Hockey since 2006 and provided nutritional consultancy support to athletes in a range of sports including running, triathlon and rugby. She regularly represents Great Britain as an age group triathlete and has completed six Ironmans.



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