Fuelling up for fun runs

9th August 2015

By Rebecca Gawthorne

The Fun Run Season is finally here! And what an amazing season it will be. Sydney fun runs are extremely inclusive events, attracting everyone from your Average Joes to top Australian and international competitors. With all participants racing side-by-side, fun runs are both fast and furious for the elite, and enjoyable for first-timers. 

If you are daring to compete, you would have dedicated months to training and preparing yourself to be mentally and physically ready. Now the critical weeks and days leading up to your event are here it’s worth noting the vital role that nutrition plays when it comes to the final preparation you need to make in order for your body to compete at its peak. Whether you’re a first-timer aiming to cross the finish line or an experienced athlete hoping to obtain a PB, what you eat can make or break your run. Follow these nutrition tips to ensure you run your best.

One week prior to your race you need plenty of energy to give you stamina for final training sessions. Aim for a diet high in carbohydrates (cereals, bread, pasta) and moderate amounts of protein and healthy fats (oily fish, walnuts and canola oil). Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables are essential to ensure your immune system is strong and you have sufficient energy, muscle repair and vitamins and minerals.

Three days leading up to your race you should try “carb-loading”. This involves eating extra carbohydrate-rich foods (breads, cereals, pasta, starchy vegetables) to maximise your muscle glycogen stores. Carbo-loading can help delay fatigue during your race and allow you to run at your optimal speed for longer. In fact, it is estimated that loading up on carbohydrates may improve performance by more than 2-3 per cent. Remember to eat a good carbohydrate-rich meal the night before your race, especially if your event is early in the morning.

Food for fuel
On race day, you need to be well-fuelled to run at your best. The timing of your run will determine how much you eat and when. Ideally you should consume a carbohydrate-rich breakfast 3-4 hours before the race. This may not be practical if your race is at 8am. Instead, eat a light carbohydrate snack 1 to 2 hours before your race to top up your body’s energy stores. It needs to be made up primarily of carbohydrates, which make up your body’s primary source of energy. It should also be low in fibre to prevent any stomach upset. Some great choices include:

  • 2 slices of toast with jam or honey
  • Small serve of breakfast cereal, ½ cup of milk, and juice
  • Smoothie made from low-fat milk, yoghurt and fruit
  • Fresh fruit or a small serving of fruit salad with low-fat yoghurt
  • 2 crumpets with vegemite, jam or honey
  • Low-fat breakfast bar or muesli bar and a banana
  • 500ml of fruit juice
  • 3 rice cakes with jam or honey

Revving up
If you usually get nervous before a race, a carbohydrate drink such as a home-made smoothie or fruit juice may be a better option. And remember it’s important to always start your race well hydrated. 

Your performance during the race can also be enhanced if you ingest carbohydrates during the run. Easy and convenient options include sports drinks such as Gatorade to get that extra carbohydrate, energy and fluid in along the way.

At the finish line, a carbohydrate-rich snack with some protein is ideal. White bread, banana and honey will help rebuild your energy reserves quickly, and including protein will help repair and rebuild muscles. Sports drinks will help to replace fluid, as well as carbohydrates and salt.

Good luck to the thousands that will run, jog and walk across Sydney in the coming weeks! Eat up and run hard!

Rebecca Gawthorne is an accredited practising dietician and nutritionist. For more information, email: Rebecca.gawthorne@gmail.com or check out her website, rebeccagawthorne.com.au

instagram: @nourish_naturally