As I announced last month, on July 10th I will be running the British 10k – an exciting race set to take place through the heart of the city and give runners a glimpse of some of London’s most iconic landmarks along the way. Although running has never been a huge strength of mine, the past 8 weeks have been a fantastic learning experience, particularly in terms of getting to know how to fuel my body for the challenge. In guides to pre-race nutrition, there’s often a large focus on the way we should eat the night before/morning of a race. But, it’s equally important to ensure that in the weeks leading up to the race you are fuelling yourself adequately as this is when you will be in the peak phase of your training and putting your body through the most strain. Below, I’m sharing some tips for keeping yourself well nourished so that your body is in top form until the big day!
Fuel, run and replenish
As I mentioned, in the weeks leading up to the event you will most likely be close to or already running the full distance of the race. Therefore, ideally at this point you will be eating around your training as you would around the actual race. Because a 10k can be completed in under 90 minutes, it’s generally not necessary to load up on carbohydrates beforehand as you would when running longer distance races. Try not to eat a large meal within 3 hours of training as this may leave you feeling heavy and bloated which will hinder your performance. Instead, have something light, predominantly made up of easily digestible simple carbohydrates and some protein around 1-2 hours before you train to give you a boost of energy. A banana and berry smoothie with yoghurt or a scoop of protein powder is a great choice as the sugars in fruit act as a fast releasing source of energy that will power you through your shorter sessions of activity.
After you train, make sure you refuel your body as fast as possible to jump-start the recovery process. At this point, complex carbohydrates are key in order to replenish your depleted glycogen stores from the run, as well as protein which will aid the repair of muscle and tissue damage and help prevent injury. Things like scrambled eggs on rye toast, porridge with protein powder or a baked sweet potato with mixed bean chilli are great options!
Balance your plate
While the food surrounding your runs will generally be more carbohydrate centric, it’s important that your other meals include a good balance of fat and protein as well in order to facilitate your body’s recovery and maintenance of healthy physiological functioning. Aim to compose your plates of 1/4 protein, 1/4 complex carbohydrates and 1/2 fresh vegetables. A balanced lunch or dinner plate for example may include a fillet of salmon for protein and healthy fats with a side of roasted vegetables and quinoa to fulfil your carbohydrate needs. Focus on eating whole foods as these will offer your body more energy than nutrient-depleted processed foods and will allow you to recover from each run faster and stronger.
Staying hydrated is especially important before, after and sometimes during running. Before you run, try to sip a glass of water in order to hydrate your muscles before they get moving but don’t over-do it as you don’t want to feel full of liquid! During your runs, you may or may not need to drink so whether you choose to or not is completely down to personal preference. Important things to consider are how much you sweat and how warm the climate is. The main thing thing is to ensure that you rehydrate after training in order to replace lost electrolytes. Your muscles will be working to recover long after you finish running so having a steady flow of liquids in the hours following your sessions will allow them to do the job properly and help them perform even better next time! Try not to have sports energy drinks as these are usually packed with sugar and so cause an insulin spike that will deplete your energy levels. Instead, opt for water with a little sea salt or coconut water if you need something a little more flavoursome.
In the weeks leading up to the race, it may also be worth cutting down on or removing alcohol and caffeine as these two substances can be dehydrating. If you need an energy hit, get it from your snacks instead. Which brings me onto my next point.
Power up with protein snacks
When snacking throughout the day, use protein rich foods as these will not only help repair and restore your muscles after your training but also sustain your energy levels, especially important when preparing for a physical challenge. The digestion of protein takes longer than that of carbohydrates and so snacks that are high in protein will keep you feeling fuller and energised for longer. I’ll be sharing a post closer to race-time on some of my favourite protein rich snacks to help power you up between meals!
Simplify and Familiarise
Stick to eating food your body already knows and loves. With race day in the not-so-distant future, now is not the time to begin experimenting with your diet. Keep things simple and familiar so as to avoid putting extra strain on your digestion. You don’t want to be spending extra energy trying to digest foods that don’t necessarily agree with you.
While training for a 10k doesn’t require a strict, athlete-like regime when it comes to nutrition, it’s always important to fuel yourself well so that you’re performing the best you can whatever the challenge. I hope these tips have been helpful and, if any of you are running the British 10k, I look forward to seeing you there!