By: Madeline LaCesa LAT, ATC, AASDN Certified Nutrition Specialist
Many people struggle when it comes to choosing the right foods to prepare the body for things like sports games, distance races, and even activities of daily living. It is important to fuel your body properly every day, but especially if you're a "Girl on the Run". If you follow a few simple nutrition tips, your body will be healthy and ready to fly across the finish line come race day!
1) Eat a balanced diet: A balanced diet is high in carbohydrates (the muscles main source of energy), moderate in proteins, and low in fats. There is a common misconception that athletes need to "carb-load" the day before an event in order to fill the body's gas-tank. This can lead to carb-overload that can leave you feeling weighed down and lethargic. To be healthy, eat meals rich in complex carbs the day leading up to a race; add whole grains or a starch to every meal, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and drink low fat milk or water!
2) Don't skip breakfast: I'm sure you've heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well... It's true! Your body continues to burn calories and energy when you sleep at night, so when you wake up it needs to be replenished. You want to wake up early before an event and give yourself plenty of time to eat and digest. Skipping breakfast can make you feel tired, dizzy, and nauseous. Eating too big of a breakfast, too close to race time, can make you feel full and sick to your stomach. Avoid binge eating pancakes and French toast, stick to low-fat yogurt topped with fruit and granola or a bagel with a side of eggs. Along with a delicious breakfast, make sure you're drinking plenty of fluids in the hours leading up to race time!
3) Stay away from sugary drinks and foods: Although some energy drinks like Redbull and Monster can be tasty, drinking them before running can do damage to the body. Caffeine and sugar primarily found in these drinks can affect your heart rate and decrease your performance. These drinks are also known to dehydrate the body which can cause stomach cramps and heat illness. Drink plenty of water the morning of, but stop about 30 minutes prior to the event. Having excess water in your stomach can make you feel full and bloated which may slow you down. If you're looking for an energy boost before the big race, avoid candy and sugary treats. Try grabbing a banana or bottle of Gatorade that will replenish your electrolytes and give you some healthy carbohydrates to run on.