Growing up as an athlete, with a soccer ball at my feet practically since birth, there are several superstitions I’ve tried through the years. Only one seemed to stick. Thankfully, the food-related routine I fell into is more than a superstition and actually beneficial to athletic performance. I plan on putting it to good use when I run in Friday’s 3rd Annual West Chester STOMPS CANCER 5K & Fun Run/Walk with Bringing Hope Home.
The age-old act of loading up on carbohydrates before a race (always in the pasta & bread form) worked its way into my family long before I arrived, but I was happy to adopt it and share it with many friends along the way, including my entire college soccer team. It’s important to get about 70% of your calories from carbohydrates the day before a race but there’s more to athletic success than that.
Take it from a life-long athlete, and an upcoming runner in Bringing Hope Home’s 5K fundraiser, this List of To-Do’s won’t cut your time in half but it’ll have you feeling extra energized and ready to run another!
1. Pasta, Pasta, Pasta & Friends
While I touched on the importance of carbohydrates the day before a race, there are some other elements to this pre-workout food ritual that make it go the extra mile, like including your closest friends and family. Round up the gang, be it runners who you plan to hit the trail with, or people who have always had your back. A big potluck dinner with special people and belly-filling food will have you starting off the race on the right foot and feeling great the whole way through. Be sure to keep the pasta simple, avoiding acidic or super creamy sauces, and double your water intake. These Runner’s World pasta recipes from marathoning chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Bobby Flay should do the trick.
2. Food Strangers Not Wanted
It’s tough to turn a blind eye to all the snacks, supplements, beverages and bars that guarantee maximum performance. Don’t test out new items and foods on the day of your race and try not to eat 2 to 3 hours before your event. Keep your meals small and low in fiber, fat and protein. That being said, an energy bar can definitely do wonders before hitting the road. I like to put in a little extra leg work, since it’s for a race after all, and whip up a batch at home. The Nickel Pincher Raw Lemon-Coconut Bars from Lehigh Valley, PA-based health company Rodale, are not only packed with feel good ingredients and low in sugar, they’re gluten free, too!
3. Break Fast…But Not Too Fast
Whether you’re running in the early morning or at night, breakfast is the most important meal of any day and it’s not always about what you’re eating, but sometimes how you’re eating. It’s ideal to take in energy boosting, balanced and healthy options the morning of your big race. They should be easily digestible carbohydrates as well. A big time go-to for my game day breakfasts often involve peanut butter, bagels, honey and bananas. Livestrong seems to approve of those items. What most sources overlook are consuming techniques. Eat slowly. Let each bite rest before the next is taken. An excellent breakfast eaten too quickly can be just as ineffective as a horrible breakfast eaten any which way. Take your time then, push yourself through the race later.
4. Are There Meat-Infused Beers?
Saturday’s race with Bringing Hope Home will wrap up with an after-party at Barnaby’s. Some studies have shown that a beer does the body good after workouts but natural suspicious tendencies tell me that research may have been funded by a brewery. Regardless of beer benefits, a celebratory brew (or two) is always acceptable after your race achievements. But what should you be pairing with it to get the most from your workout? Protein! Eggs and meat are ideal but there are many nutritious foods that will do the trick. Avoid simple sugars and high fat intake as much as possible. Re-fuel with water or an electrolyte-pumped drink and be sure to rest after your cool down!
5. All Around Good Eats
These pointers are highly suggested for a feel good race day, and there are many more food related activities to consider if trying to being a successful runner. One can’t just eat pasta the night before, an energy bar in the morning and blow post other racers. A well rounded and healthy diet, that doesn’t sacrifice your workout energy or performance is the best way to go. Runner’s World suggests 15 foods to incorporate into your running diet and I couldn’t agree more, not only because the items are nutritious but they’re delicious, too. My favorites include almonds, whole grain cereals, black beans, salmon, sweet potatoes, and (of course) dark chocolate. A few recipes that use the healthy runner items may be found HERE.
That’s that! I hope to see you Friday and at future events with Bringing Hope Home as they challenge the community to provide Hope for 100. Better yet, you don’t have to be a runner to make a difference. Find other ways to get involved with Bringing Hope Home’s Challenge, HERE.
Photographs courtesy of Rodale.