Mark Wolff’s second tip ahead of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, is all about taper week! Here’s how you need to taper your nutrition to match your change in running. There are 4 key avenues to look at…
David Katz: We talked about hydration in our first fuelling tip ahead of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon. Mark Wolff back on the line, today we’re looking at tapering nutrition. You need to taper your running and with that, you need to taper your nutrition. Mark Wolff, where do people start?
The trick to nutritional tapering
Mark Wolff: I think the most important thing to understand around the taper period is that your volume of training is reduced significantly. Which means that you’re requiring less fuel during the day than what you were used to previously.
Previously you might have been burning off a lot more calories and requiring to consume a lot more calories in order to be able to try and replenish that deficit to keep your energy system up, and obviously to keep your immune system strong.
What happens during taper week is that the volume drops and there’s a lot of sharpening. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to stop training, you obviously carry on training but there’s a lot of sharpening. It could be quite a bit of pace work happening as well, but obviously shorter periods of time.
Keep the immune system topped up
There’s four main things that I like to tell athletes to focus on during the taper and that is, first of all, immune system strength is number one. You really need to get to your event in a healthy state. You do not want to fall ill before that. We know that when an athlete hits peak training, generally their immune system is quite lowered, their bodies hit fatigue and they are very susceptible to infection.
Obviously this happens even more when you’re exposed to children or even people close to work. I’ve seen some serious athletes running around with face masks close to the event because they don’t want to get sick. That’s something to focus on.
Importance of weight management
The second thing is weight management. Obviously as the amount of volume decreases, of training, the amount of calories will need to fall in line with that. You do not want to gain weight for your race. The reason being, if you do gain weight at a race, you are going to suffer terribly. You’re used to training at a particular weight, you want to race at that exact same weight or slightly lighter. You really need to hone in on your diet.
A very good way of doing that is to obviously focus on eating cleanly, don’t eat out, reduce and cut sugar intake. The other thing is, you can also reduce your protein intake slightly and carbohydrate intake, because you do not need to take in as many calories as you would be requiring previously. Weight management is very key.
How to maximise muscle recovery
Obviously muscle recovery is very important during the tapering period, you need to make sure that you’re getting strength gains and you’re not fatiguing yourself for the big day. This is the time to repair, recover and obviously built and get to the race in peak shape.
I always tell people, remember, training breaks you down, proper rest and recovery builds you up and makes you stronger. This has a very large dependency on nutrition. Make sure that you eat for recovery. That’s making sure you get the right amount of protein in, you’re eating cleanly, a lot of leafy, green vegetables, decent healthy fruit and cutting out all the nonsense. Obviously that will also play a very crucial role in the weight management, as we discussed previously.
Be race fuel preparation ready
One of the other very important factors during taper is to make sure that in your mind you have your race fuel preparation ready. The way you prepare your body from a nutrition perspective in the weeks and days leading up to an event will either make or break your fuelling strategy on the day.
You need to make sure that you’ve practiced and you’ve trained your race fuel for the day during your training sessions. Obviously in that taper period you can still practice it a little bit here or there, but you need to make sure that at least 7-10 days out of the race you’ve got in down pat, and there should be no more experimentation.
I stand at expos and a lot of people come up to me and say, “What do I need for my race?” I always tell them, “It’s way too late to start asking me that now; you should have been practicing this quite a long time ago.” If you focus on those things, including hydration, making sure you’re hydrating each day and keeping the body nicely in shape and healthy; I think you’ll get to your Two Oceans Marathon in a very good race weight and obviously with good immune system strength and staying healthy.
DK: That’s tip two for the Two Oceans Marathon. We did talk about hydration as well, I’ll put a link up or log onto 32gi.com for more info for that. Do stay tuned and look out for tip number three when we’ll be looking at T minus 48 hours.