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pre-race meal

pre-race (and pre-ride) meals are very important. but, there's a lot of misunderstanding about what the role of the pre-race meal is. it isn't what your body is going to burn in the race. you ate all that the day before. what you're really doing is topping off the somewhat depleted liver glycogen stores that you used while you were asleep. so, if you race early and don't want to get up super early, don't. just make sure that you eat some "race food" before the race. i recommend perpetuem or a mixture of heed and soy protein (do not use whey!). if you race later, the meal tops off that glycogen and fuels you until you start racing, so that you can start with a topped off (but not overflowing) tank.

the reasons for the three hour window:

hormones: digesting food makes us sleepy. i vaguely remember from my endocrinology class oh so long ago that eating sets off all sorts of hormonal changes. insulin is the most talked about but there are others. eat too close to a race or ride and your body and mind will feel sluggish and slow. that's bad.

blood: on a full stomach your body will focus on digesting food. that means sending lots of blood to your abdomen and not to your legs. i've noticed this a number of times lately. after eating a rather large meal and going out to train it took a long time to get to where i felt like i could really work and i think this was largely due to the fact that i couldn't get adequate blood supply to my legs.

the key to this strategy is that you eat adequately while you ride. if you typically start racing and training with food in your stomach you can put off eating ride food because you're still getting at that food in your stomach. however, if you've done it properly, your stomach is nearly empty (which is what you want) and you'll fuel yourself properly from there on. any food in your stomach when you start riding is essentially ride food. is your breakfast really want you want for ride food?

don't believe that you can race with out eating a true meal? i raced the 120 mile national championships with a pre-race meal of 2 scoops of heed and half a scoop of soy protein. i felt great. everybody swore i'd bonk. and i got an additional two hours of sleep.

dr misner's bottom line suggestion:

Sports nutrition expert Bill Misner, Ph.D., advises a pre-race meal should be “an easily digested high complex carbohydrate meal of between 200 – 400 calories with a minimum of fiber, simple sugar, and fat.” According to Dr. Misner, fat slows digestion and has no positive influence on fuels metabolized during an event. He further states that a pre-race meal that is high in fiber may “create the call for an unscheduled and undesirable bathroom break in the middle or near the end of the event.”

i personally don't mind lots of fiber in my pre-race meal. i typically eat a lot of fiber so sticking to that (with a cup of coffee) really cleans me out before the race (i've never had the problem they describe). no better way to reach race weight!

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