There are so many things that need to go right for an athlete on race day to have the amazing day they visualize over and over in their minds.
Most athletes thrive on the physical training, with its immediate feedback; a pounding heart, endorphins, searing muscles, sweat and feel good brain chemicals. It’s this elixir of sensations that keeps most of us hungry for the next workout. If anything, it’s the dialing back and rest days that most athletes need help with, letting the adaptations take place to gain strength for key races throughout the season.
While most athletes don’t tend to fall short on physical training, too many put nutrition on the back burner in comparison, when the reality is, nutrition can quickly make what could have been your best day, your worst day. With all the physical time athletes put into training, it doesn’t make sense to not optimize that training with great nutrition.
By practicing all of the following; good recovery meals, optimal hydration strategies during training, timing of meals before race like efforts, composition of daily nutrition, caffeine’s impact on your performance and GI tract, beet root juice timing, efficacy and how well it is tolerated, trying new sports drinks, using gels or ride foods you’ll race with; you learn a lot about your body. You’ll learn how your GI tract reacts to all of the above scenarios, how to time your nutrition and what you enjoy eating before and after hard training sessions, how much energy you need to execute your program at your best, day in and day out.
Why would anyone who takes their athletic success seriously want to leave any of this to chance? GI upset can stop you in your tracks and as far as any ergogenic aids, wouldn’t you want to make sure you maximized their potential or avoided any negative digestive consequences they may cause you? Yes! Just like you train your body, you need to practice your nutrition so that come race day, it’s dialed in and just a matter of execution.
Everyone gets a bit nervous and excited lining up for a race. You want to show up with all the tools you can to give you all the confidence you can have. Preparation precedes confidence.
The next time you are heading for a training ride that has race like efforts, ask yourself “what am I doing with my nutrition today, to practice and prepare for race day?” There should be at least one thing per workout. Write down any observations in a journal. Here are a few examples:
1-Figure out your favorite pre-race meal for when you have 1,2 or 3 hours before the race.
2-Find out what you can stomach on day 4 of a 6 day stage race in the scorching heat? Maybe your favorite hot oats won’t be so enjoyable and a cold smoothie that you’ve customized during hot training sessions is the ticket in that scenario.
3-Experiment with different volumes of sports drink in different temperatures (cool days vs hot humid summer scorchers). Since nutrition practice is yearly, you can learn how winter vs summer hydration differs for you.
4-Try eating in 30 vs 45 minute intervals on long hard rides. Set your Garmin to beep every 30 minutes and see if that serves you well? Or is it annoying? Do you typically remember to eat regularly?
There are so many nutrition strategies to practice. Everyone will have unique scenarios, however these ones are the most common things we should all have a good grasp on.
There are no guarantees in sport. A lot of things are out of our control. Even if you do everything right, things happen, the body responds differently under pressure, weather is unpredictable and equipment can fail. But that’s just part of sport. You still prepare as if everything is going to go just as you visualized it – amazingly well.
I know you don’t get endorphins from drinking a sports drink or timing your breakfast. It may seem like too much detail for you right now. But I’ll assure you, when you line up with that extra twinkle of confidence in your eyes because you know your nutrition plan will take you the distance and enable you to leave your best ride or run out there, you’ll be grateful you invested the time.
NSAG.CA Move Well – Think Well – Age Well