What to eat before, during and after Strong Viking?
Paying attention to what you eat – and when – can have an impact on your performance.
When you’re getting ready for a strenuous workout, you’ll want to start preparing well ahead of time. Your focus is going to be on providing your body with the carbohydrates in needs to fuel your working muscles. But your planning doesn’t stop there – in order to perform your best, you’ll also need to figure out how to stay fueled and hydrated during the event, and how provide your body with the nutrients it needs for recovery.
During endurance events, working muscles rely heavily on carbohydrates for fuel. Much of that carbohydrate comes from storage sites in the muscles and liver, where it’s locked away in the form of glycogen. When glycogen stores run low during an event, it’s not uncommon for athletes to ‘hit the wall’ as they start to run on fumes.
Many athletes think it’s enough to just top off the tank by loading up on carbs the night before a race. But, it takes more than one carb-heavy meal. Ideally, you’ll start your regimen a few days ahead of time, by gradually increasing your carbohydrate intake and tapering off on your training. By focusing on your carbohydrate intake for a few days ahead of time, you’ll maximize glycogen storage, and it will help you to exercise longer.
The general advice is that you ramp up your carbohydrate intake while tapering off on your activity somewhat for two or three days leading up to the event. With more carbs going in (and less being burned since you’re exercising less), you’ll be able to accumulate more glycogen.
During this time, load up your plate with healthy carbs in the form of fruits, dairy products, potatoes, whole grain breads and pasta, bagels, tortillas and other whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. Fruit juices provide plenty of carbs, too.
The night before the race, keep your meal modest in size, but still high in carbs. A large meal – even if it’s loaded with the right carbs – might make you feel a little heavy the next morning. That’s because for every gram of glycogen you store, you also store about 3 grams of water. But it also means that you’ll be starting your race both fueled and hydrated.
When you start the race in the morning, you want to be sure you’ve topped off your body’s fuel tank, but timing is key. The more time you have to digest your meal before the race starts, the larger your meal can be. If you can finish your meal 3 hours ahead of time, then you can eat a full breakfast. Just be sure to include plenty of carbs, and keep your meal low in fat and fiber to avoid digestive upsets. Good choices would be some fruit with a bowl of oatmeal (try making with milk, or stirring in a bit of protein powder after it finishes cooking), or some toast with a light spread of peanut butter along with some fruit.
If you’ve got just an hour or two before the event, you can have a lighter solid meal, such as a bowl of low fiber cereal with milk, or some eggs and toast. But if you’ll be eating within an hour of start time, your pre-race meal should be light and easy to digest – like a smoothie or a carton of yogurt.
During the race, there are three important considerations: staying hydrated, replacing lost body salts, and staying fueled. Sports drinks are great because they provide fluids and important salts, as well as carbohydrates to keep you fueled. As you enter into your second hour of activity, your carbohydrate stores will be limited, and you’ll need about 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour to keep going. Sports drinks are designed to provide about that amount of carbohydrate in a liter of fluid, so time your fluid intake so that you’re taking in about one-fourth of a liter of sports drink every fifteen minutes. You’ll be replenishing not only carbohydrate, but important salts – like sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium – too. Fortunately, the refreshment posts at the Strong Viking run offer CR7 Drive, a sports drink with carbohydrates and electrolytes.
Once the race is over, you’ll again want to focus on carbohydrates to replenish stores in your muscles and liver. Try to eat within 30 minutes or so after the event is over – your body will take up the carbs more readily than if you wait. Now is the time to eat high fiber foods, since digestion time is no longer a concern. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans and dairy products are great carbohydrate-rich recovery foods. Whey and casein – two proteins derived from dairy – are also great after exercise because they help promote muscle recovery. So, a sandwich on whole grain bread with a glass of milk, a bowl of yogurt with fresh fruit, or a recovery shake like Herbalife24 Rebuild Strength are all examples of post-exercise meals that would fill the bill.