While every stage of the build-up to a race like #OMTOM2018 is crucial, from a nutritional point of view, it doesn’t get much more important that the final week! In the latest of our pre-Two Oceans tips podcasts, Mark Wolff talks us through the last week, right up to the night before. It’s nutritional make or break time!
David Katz: The Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon is around the corner; that last week of nutrition, that last 48 hours becomes so important. Mark Wolff, what do people do in the week leading up and those last couple of days to a big race like that and very importantly, that night before?
Lay off the Alcohol (this week)
Mark Wolff: That’s a very crucial week. The first thing I can honestly say is keep it clean, do not eat anything that could impact your digestive system negatively. Make sure you hydrate absolutely properly. I always recommend 30-40ml of fluid per kg of body weight and that is not by any means alcohol. I’m talking water for hydration, nothing that would dehydrate you. If you do drink alcohol, keep it out that week. It will impact you on that day, there’s absolutely no doubt. So keep it out, save it for after the race.
Avoid very heavy meals that you might not be used to, because some of these meals will impact your digestive system negatively. I’ve often seen people get stomach bugs close to an event or they’ve gone out during the week of an event, especially those travelling down to a city where they don’t normally stay and they will eat out.
You should plan to take as much of the foods with you during those last few days and that week. Make sure that those are the foods that you would normally eat and keep sticking to them. If you can find a hotel or accommodation where you’ve got self-catering, it makes it a lot easier. If you are in a hotel and they’re not cooking foods to your liking, sneak into the kitchen and do it yourself. They won’t have a problem with that, but try and make a plan and try and keep it clean.
48-72 hours (nutrition is crucial)
As far as the 48-72 hours before an event goes, those are very, very crucial hours. Those hours can make or break if you actually eat something or drink something that’s not suited to you. You don’t want to take anything, if you’re lactose intolerant, avoid milk. For example red meat sits heavily in your stomach, then avoid red meat, rather eat clean, lean protein or eat vegetable based proteins. Don’t try and eat something new too close to race day.
Make sure you’re hydrating, specifically those 72 to 48 hours beforehand, you need to hydrate, you need to cut out any alcohol. Don’t overdo it with anything that would be a stimulant. Don’t go and drink excessive amounts of coffee or caffeine, rather tone that down before the race. You need to get a good night’s sleep, so you don’t want to impact your sleep and take in any stimulants which would impact it at night.
There are some people who deplete carbohydrates closer to a race and then slowly build up that carbohydrate intake. Don’t try this if you’ve never tried it before. I don’t feel there’s a reason to overeat carbohydrates in those hours before an event because it’s not going to make a major difference, especially for an Ultra. Your glycogen stores will be topped up during the taper week, especially that last week. They should be topped up, especially if you’ve been eating cleanly and the right amounts of food. There’s no need to overdo it because that will just lead to weight gain and to discomfort.
The Night before #OMTOM2018
As far as the night before the race goes and this is what I get asked very often, a lot of people eat big meals the night before a race. I very much object to eating a large meal the night before a race. What I suggest is that if you’re going to have a slightly higher carbohydrate meal, you can have it at the lunch time the day before and you can have an earlier lunch.
I’m not saying go and eat three or four bowls of pasta, definitely not, keep it clean and keep it simple and small. It doesn’t need to be an excessive meal by any means, but you can have a slightly higher carbohydrate portion at that lunch time meal.
At dinner time you could eat another meal, it can be smaller, but it can also consist of a nice carb and protein and simple things like scrambled eggs on toast or an omelette on bread etc, or a chicken or a fish dinner or some sort of a salad. Whether it’s tofu, whether it’s chicken or whether it’s fish, all of those are very nice and clean meals and they probably wouldn’t irritate you at all.
They’d also leave you feeling very comfortable and allow you to have a good night’s sleep before the event and you need to try and sleep very well the night before the event. That is far more important than anything. Focus more on being comfortable, that you get to sleep as opposed to focusing on overeating because that will leave you tossing and turning with a very heavy stomach.
Something that I do advise athletes to try and avoid in the 24-48 hours before an event is anything that’s high in fibre. Fibre does cause a little bit of intolerance in a lot of people and the last thing you want is irritable bowel. Try and avoid high fibre foods, rather go for something that’s a little bit low fibre and easily absorbed and digested, especially as pre-race nerves come into play, fibre can even play more havoc on the system.
Just make sure that you don’t drink excessively the night before, rather drink through the day, but make sure at night you don’t drink excessively because the last thing you want to be doing is running up and down to the toilet when you should actually be sleeping. You’re not going to get a lot of sleep that night, so try and maximise it as much as possible.
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