Soweto Marathon nutritional dos and don’ts
04 November 2016
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Brad Brown: It is race week of the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon for 2016, excitement building I can tell you, I am looking forward to my trip up to Johannesburg and seeing all the runners on the Highveld once again. Taking on the people’s race, it’s one of my favourite events on the calendar. Hopefully you’re ready and raring to go, well into your taper.
We thought we’d take a look at what you should be doing from a nutrition point of view the night before, the day of and afterwards. We are absolutely privileged to welcome back onto the podcast once again, we spoke a few weeks ago, she’s the Head Dietician for FutureLife, the official nutrition partner of the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon, Lara de Santana. Lara, welcome, thank you for joining us today.
Lara de Santana: Cool, thanks a lot Brad, thanks for having me.
BB: Lara, it’s good to have you back on, just a couple of days away from race day, let’s talk about nutrition perspective the night before and we’ll get into race day in a moment. But we touched on it in our last chat and it’s not really the time to be experimenting, you should really know what you should be doing. But possibly there’s someone listening to this that’s not quite sure what they should be doing the night before. What advice could you give them from a dieticians perspective the night before a big race?
What to do the night before
LDS: Absolutely, we don’t want to be changing anything. By now you should know what you’re having on race day and obviously what, you’ve experimented with what you’re having with your dinner before. Generally, the night before we’re going to make sure your kit, your nutrition and everything you might need for the day are packed out and readily available. The last thing you want to do on race morning is to not have everything right in terms of your nutrition.
The night before, drink plenty of fluids. In terms of a dinner, we want to make sure that this meal is carbohydrate rich, but without too much fibre. Because we obviously don’t want to delay that digestion, we just want to store up those glycogen stores.
Here we’d include a decent sized serving of protein, but here we want to avoid too much fat. You can also include some starch veg. We kind of want to avoid your larger salads because they’re not providing you with that much carbs, although nutrients, but not a lot of carbs.
Here we would go more to our starchy veg, which would include your butternut, your beetroot, that type of thing. In terms of what a meal would look like there; a spaghetti bolognaise with a low fat sauce, maybe a tomato based sauce, a chicken breast with some rice and that starchy veg. Even a lean burger with some potato wedges.
Then before we go to bed we obviously want to have a bed time snack, so here it would be a muffin, a banana or a yoghurt. Then we’re going to set out all our stuff for breakfast. A lot of people quite like mixing their FutureLife smoothies the night before, putting them in the fridge. Then just decanting the next morning. But otherwise, just put everything out so that you know it’s ready for the morning. Set your alarm clock, get to bed and get some good rest. I think a good night’s rest can go a long way on race day.
BB: You talk about making sure everything is ready the night before, I think that’s vital. But also a lot of people are travelling in to Jo’burg and Soweto from out of town. FutureLife is a great option, particularly if you’ve trained on it in the build-up to a race. It’s easy, you just pack a box in your suitcase, for race morning you’re sorted. You don’t have to worry if you’re in a hotel or in an environment where you’re not too sure of what’s going to be available. At least you’ve got something with you that you are used to.
Good and bad race day morning ideas
Let’s talk about race morning and what we should be doing and time frames before, because when there’s an early start to a race. It’s quite difficult to gauge when should I be eating, should it be just before the start, what happens if I have to travel? It’s going to take me three hours to get there, it’s quite a difficult one. What advice would you give there Lara?
LDS: Your big meal prior to a race should essentially happen about 2-3 hours before the actual race begins. You may have to wake up a little bit earlier, like you said, a lot of people are travelling anyway, so this really shouldn’t be a problem. 2-3 hours before the race we need to be having our bigger low GI meal. It’s a low GI carbohydrate meal with moderate protein, low fat and low fibre.
Like I said in the previous episode, in terms of fibre, some people tolerate fibre well, but if you know you do, great. If you’re not sure about it, then let’s not play around with it, low fat, low fibre, so I would prefer then mixing up a product without milk. Just to make sure, unless you’ve trained on it. But yes, a high GI, moderate protein, low fat, low fibre meal 2-3 hours before.
Then in terms of, a lot of people do like topping up before exercise. I would recommend that, 2-3 hours before you exercise, it does leave some room directly before exercise to just top up. In terms of topping up, you don’t want to do your low GI high fibre product there either, we want to do a high GI, sugar containing, fast energy release food here.
That would be a drink or a high GI bar, for example the FutureLife high energy bars or a sugary drink or some fruit juice diluted or something like that. About 15-30 minutes before you actually start the race, to just top up those stores. Basically in terms of before a race, 2-3 hours before and then directly before.
BB: Let’s talk about what you could possibly do during the race, from a nutrition point of view. Again, it’s something you don’t want to be testing for the first time on Sunday. But let’s talk about what you should, is there a rule of thumb of how much carbs you should be taking in or how much liquid? Is it that easy or is it an experiment of one where you have to figure out and should have figured out what works for you by now?
Guidelines for what you require during racing
LDS: There are guidelines. You should have figured out what works for you, so although there are guidelines, everyone is different, everyone sweats at different rates. Everyone utilises their carbohydrates a little bit differently, but there are general guidelines.
In terms of during exercise, there are two goals, rehydration and refuelling. When it comes to hydration, we obviously want to make sure that we’re not dehydrating, but also that we’re not over-hydrating. The general standpoint is about 3ml of fluid per kg body weight, every 20 minutes. Practically, this is about 125ml to 250ml of fluid, kind of at each water point for every 20 minutes. You’re looking at about 500-750ml every hour and then obviously during the session as well.
We want to make sure that the drinks that we are having do contain electrolytes for proper hydration, or your bars or your goos, those types of things will have electrolytes in there as well. So just make sure when you are drinking fluid, it’s obviously assimilating into ourselves quite well for rehydration. That’s really from a hydration standpoint.
When you’re looking at refuelling, I have mentioned before that our bodies are only able to store limited amounts of carbs in the form of glycogen. So that’s really why we want to up our carbs the day before, is to keep those stores full. 45 minutes into a race, we need to actually start refuelling.
Generally, marathon runners require about 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour, that’s quite a big range. So hopefully by then you would have figured out what works better for you, but that’s the recommendation. If you are pushing quite hard, a good guideline is to take in about 15g of carbs at each water point or 30g at every second one.
You’ll see, all of the products that you are using en route, or even banana, I mean a banana is 15g of carbs, all of those are quite standard in terms of their carbohydrate count. If you can look at that and kind of say, I’ll have that every watering point, 15g every water point or 30g at every second one, it can be quite useful.
In terms of combining the refuelling and the rehydration, obviously sports drinks are quite nice there as well. Then obviously a drink that you can take with you, for example your FutureLife high energy smart food will work for a lot of people. Then the FutureLife high energy bar as well.
We just want to make sure that it’s high GI, fast energy release and it contains electrolytes, so the bar would definitely fit in quite nicely there. Otherwise bananas, jelly sweets, energy gels, I know a lot of people quite like a fizzy drink. Then if they are using fruit juices, we need to make sure that those fruit juices are watered down. I find that a lot of people that use the likes of gels and fruit juices, if it’s not had with fluid, for example with water, what will happen is they tend to get cramps. Because if it’s too sugary or very high, a high concentration of glucose. Your body will actually start pulling water in from the body and that’s when you get cramps. Just make sure if you are having these types of treats, you are having fluid with it as well.
For your bodies sake don’t neglect recovery
BB: Great advice. Let’s talk about post-race and recovery, for a lot of people they neglect it. They’ve done the race, they don’t really care and they go and smash as many beers and as many pizzas as they can. I’ve been guilty of that on a few occasions. What’s the best post-race recovery strategy from a nutrition perspective?
LDS: So post-race, it’s always protein, this is really where it’s shining. But what a lot of people forget is that we need protein as well as carbs and then obviously rehydration. We’re looking at returning the body to its pre-race state and therefore essential in replacing the fluid and electrolytes.
But obviously we need to make sure that we’re drinking enough fluid afterwards and that doesn’t include beer, unfortunately. You can have a little bit later, definitely, but beer or alcohol in general has a diuretic effect. Which actually means that it makes you go to the loo a lot more often, which means it’s not really hydrating you, it’s contributing to dehydrating you.
We want to make sure that we’re having enough fluid there afterwards. We want to replenish our glycogen stores, we’ve emptied them out. So that’s where carbs are going to come in and we want to make sure that we have effective muscle repair, recovery and maintenance. That’s really where the protein is coming in.
We want to make sure that essentially you’re looking at about a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein, dairy is always a great option post exercise because it has that blend as well as the electrolytes. You are actually looking at a FutureLife smart drink, like I mentioned previously, that is a dairy based product which is great. Otherwise our FutureLife high protein smart food is a great option there. But otherwise, you can look at a drinking yoghurt, a smoothie, bacon and egg roll.
Pizza isn’t necessarily too far off, but you want to make sure that that’s happening within 30-60 minutes after exercise to get the protein as well as the carbs in. After that, after you’ve hydrated and had your protein and carbs, you’re more than welcome to go and enjoy the rest of the event.
BB: That’s it, fantastic. Lara, thank you so much for your time once again here on the podcast, much appreciated. Enjoy Sunday and thanks for your input, much appreciated.
LDS: Cool, thanks so much for having me Brad.