When competing in track events, you need to fuel your body effectively without causing any gastrointestinal distress. Your pre-meet eating plan begins three to five days before your event. The main source of your foods at this time should be carbohydrates, which increase the muscle's glycogen stores and give you the energy needed to perform at your best.
A meal plan high in carbohydrates increases your muscle's energy stores. The book, "Exercise and Sport Science," recommends that 65 percent of your calories should come from carbohydrates in the days leading up to your meet. Carbohydrates are starches and sugars which are your body's main energy source. Athletes who ingested 8 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight for 3 ½ days prior to running events showed greater performances than athletes who ate 3 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight, according to the August 2013 edition of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Eat meals that contain pasta, rice, breads, cereals, bagels, tortillas, corn chips, crackers and legumes for the days leading up to your event. If you eat a large carbohydrate meal on race day, finish it three to five hours before the race.
Fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates too, but you also consume vitamins and minerals when you eat from within this food group, and that helps convert carbohydrates into fuel. Select high-carb fruits such as bananas, apples, raisins, strawberries and raspberries for an immediate energy boost one hour prior to the meet. Also include these fruits as snacks in the days prior to the race. Carbohydrate-rich veggies include corn, peas and potatoes, which are easily incorporated into your high-carb pre-meet meal. For example, eat spaghetti with a side of corn and a roll the night before your race.
Fats provide your long-distance fuel but should be avoided immediately before an event as they require a long digestion time and could upset your stomach for a race. In the days leading up to your meet, your increase in carbohydrate calories comes from a reduction in fat calories. During this time, your protein requirements are not to build large muscles but to repair the muscle tissue damage that occurs when running. Plus, protein is used as a secondary fuel source after you burn off your carbohydrate stores. Eat small portions of high-protein foods such as chicken, peanut butter, yogurt, salmon, cheese and nuts.
Adequate hydration also should be a part of your pre-meet meal plan. This begins between four and six hours prior to the event. Water is the best fluid to drink, but aim to remain hydrated without overhydrating. The goal is to avoid dehydration, so beverages containing caffeine should not be consumed. Other drinks such as juice, according to Registered Dietitian Nancy Clark, M.S., are beneficial the night before meet day to increase your carbohydrate stores and ingest your vitamins. Milk offers a nice combination of carbohydrates and proteins in the days leading up to your event.
- Women Running Together: The Pre-Competition Meal
- Nutrition in Exercise and Sport, Third Edition; Ira Wolinsky
- Mayo Clinic: Carbohydrate-Loading Diet
- Exercise and Sport Science; Lippincott Williams and Wilkins
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: The Effect of High vs. Low Carbohydrate Meals on Distances Covered