What to eat during the event
In this article we will discuss what and how much to eat during your event to make sure that you have a great time.
It is really important that you begin your event with all your energy stores topped up. Having a breakfast meal restores your liver glycogen, ensures that you will be well hydrated when you start the event and also will help settle any pre-event nerves – a few nerves are perfectly normal!
A breakfast of 200 – 400 calories should be eaten at least 2 hours before the event start. This may mean that you have to get up a bit earlier than normal. When it comes to what to eat the best advice is to eat “your normal breakfast” or a breakfast that you have been using during your training. Today is not the day for surprises. It is usually better to avoid high fibre breakfasts as too much fibre can bring it’s own problems but you will have been practising in training so you will know what works for you.
During the event
Your body has enough glycogen (carbohydrate stores) to fuel you for around 90 mins of moderate activity.
If you expect that your event is going to take you longer than this then you need to make sure that you have the opportunity to “re fuel” during the event.
You will need to consume roughly 1g of carbohydrate per kg of bodyweight per hour. For most athletes (60-80kg) 60g of carbohydrate per hr works well as rule of thumb – if you are a bit lighter or heavier you will need to adjust this slightly. And this figure also depends on how hard you are working!
Sports gels are convenient and portable and usually contain around 30 g of carbohydrate (bars usually around 60g but check on your preferred bar) so that after your initial 90 mins of your event a gel or half a bar every 30 mins is a good plan for many athletes. Take a look at the information on the gel packet as some gels need to be taken with water that is not always available (you are not always by a water station when you need to eat) while others are more liquid and can be taken on their own. Also consider taking in carbohydrate with your water as you will of course need to stay hydrated during the event. This is a great option as it means that can eat less “solid food” – again check your sports drink to see how much carbohydrate it contains. If it is likely to be a hot day or if you expect to sweat a lot then good advice would be to use a sports drink that also includes electrolytes so that you are replacing the salts that you lose through sweat.
Whatever you choose to eat through the event the most important advice is that you have practiced with the gels and bars and drinks in your training – nothing can spoil a day like a sore stomach.
A sprint distance event
If you will finish your event in under 90 mins then you only need to have a small amount of water in your bottle. If you think you will take up to 2 hours then at the end around 90 mins eat 30 g of carbohydrate – this could be a gel or you could have been drinking 500 ml of a carbohydrate based sports drink.
A standard distance event
If your event is a standard distance event and you expect to finish in less than 2 hours 30 mins then a good strategy would be to have one gel 2/3 of the way into the bike leg and then another once you are into your run in addition to fluid made up of water and 500ml of a carbohydrate sports drink. Add a further gel or 500 ml of carbohydrate sports drink (check beforehand the amount of carbohydrate in the drink) for every additional 30 mins you expect to be exercising.
If your event is likely to take longer than 4 hours or there is a gap between events then a small snack is likely to be preferable to additional gels. Snacks could be 2 slices of malt loaf, a large banana and small yoghurt, piece of fruit cake, 3 jaffa cakes.
After your event
It has been shown that uptake of glycogen back into the muscles is optimized during the first hour after training so it is important to take on recovery fuel and rehydrate as soon as possible after the event. Doing so will help with your muscle recovery – and will certainly affect how you will feel the following day! There are many sports specific recovery drinks on the market but a glass of milk (skimmed is fine!) is just as effective as commercially bought products.
In the 4 hours immediately after your event it is recommended that you east 1-1.2 g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight per hour.
Good recovery meal options would be:
· chicken or tuna sandwich on wholemeal bread or similar
· banana fruit salad and low-fat plain yoghurt
· 2 slices of toast and jam and large glass of milk
· 3 rye crisp breads with cottage cheese and an apple
· a medium baked potato with prawn or cottage cheese filling