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Keeping Nutrition in Check Before Race Day

Tips to help you run the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon

by Dr. Crystal Hnatko, Physician-in-Charge for the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon

Napa, CA, February 27, 2017 – A good nutrition plan leading up to race day can really help you meet your performance goals.  Here are some tips to help you have a successful run at this year’s Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon.

The golden rule: Don’t try anything new on race day. You should approach your nutrition in the same manner you do for your training. A consistent nutrition plan during each training run will prepare your stomach for race day.

Pre-race week:  Increasing your carbohydrate intake (fruit, starchy vegetables, non-fat milk or yogurt, and grains) will help you store energy (glycogen) in your muscles.

Pre-race day: Cut back on fiber, fats and spices. Try to consume small but frequent meals.

Race morning:  Eat your race breakfast about two hours before race. One example of a pre-race breakfast is a peanut butter sandwich with a small glass of milk. But the BEST race breakfast is the one you have been training with. Some marathon runners consume a gel with water right before the start, but do this only if you have tried it on long training runs. Drink at least 12 ounces of water so your urine is the color of straw.

Mile 1-7: If you ate breakfast and started the race hydrated, your body doesn’t need much in the first hour unless you have determined otherwise in training. Keep an eye out for aid stations if you need a small boost.

Mile 8-22: After your first hour, your muscle’s glycogen levels will begin to drop.  After 90 minutes, they may become depleted. To prevent this, eat or drink sports gels, bars, cubes or beans with water.

How much depends on each individual. A typical amount is about 30-60 grams of carbohydrate each hour. Use the product with which you have been training. Sports beverages will replace the electrolytes you are losing in sweat. This is even more important on a warm race day or if you perspire heavily.

Mile 22-26: After three or more hours of running, caffeine may give you an energy boost. Your main source will be caffeinated sports gels you can carry with you. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and it can give you a mental kick so you don’t feel as tired. The dose (25-100mg) is variable depending on your typical caffeine consumption. If you haven’t trained with caffeine, I would think twice before trying it on race day.

Post-race:  Congratulations, you made it! Your race is over, but your nutrition plan is not. Now it’s time to replenish your depleted stores. Eat something in the first 30 minutes after the race.  Many athletes like chocolate milk which provides a good mix of protein and carbohydrates. Then consume a real meal within two hours of your finish, one that has both carbohydrates and protein. Continue to drink electrolyte-fortified drinks.

Stomach problems? If you had stomach problems (bloating, cramping, sloshing) try to determine what went wrong. The most common reasons include: dehydration, consuming something new, or not practicing nutrition in training.

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