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1 week before race day

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The countdown has begun……the focus of the next week is to get plenty of sleep and rest, taper your exercise and optimise your nutritional intake so that you start the race with your carbohydrate and fluid stores well stocked.


Ideally you should have tried ‘carbo-loading’ before long training session or training races.   ‘Carb-rich’ foods should dominate every meal and snack that you have 1-3 days before the race.  Limit protein and fat so that you can consume more carbohydrates.  To boost your carbohydrate intake between meals, include carbohydrate based snacks and beverages.

Snack examples: marie biscuits, crackers, fruit smoothies, plain rusks, cereal bars.

Beverage examples: fruit juice, ice tea, flavoured water, milo, hot chocolate.

Remember that a carbo-loading diet can result in a 2kg weight gain due to increased glycogen stores.


Choose low fibre carbohydrates

Since carbohydrate is the food of choice, you could potentially increase your fibre intake if you are choosing whole grain, high fibre starches, legumes and plenty of fruit, salads and vegetables.  While fibre has well documented health benefits, it can potentially cause gastrointestinal discomfort. This can negatively affect your last week of preparation, but more importantly it can be a huge disadvantage on race day.  Fibre also fills you up which could possibly reduce the amount of carbohydrates you consume in your carbo-loading diet. 

Low fibre starches include: white or brown bread, refined crackers such as cream crackers and salty cracks, pasta, risotto, gnocchi, couscous, pap, corn flakes and instant oats. 

Other source of low fibre carbohydrates include: peeled or soft fruit, tinned fruit and fruit juice.


Don’t forget to drink so that you start the race well hydrated

Adequate hydration is important for regulating body temperature and maintaining good blood flow for delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your exercising muscles.  Dehydration on race day can turn a potentially excellent performance bad.  Make sure you drink enough fluids leading up to race day so that you start the race well hydrated.  Trying to play catch up with fluids on race day may lead to over hydration which can also affect performance and may even be fatal.  Your fluid requirements will vary from person to person, but aim for at least 6-8 glasses (1.5 – 2 litres) of water, fruit juice or low fat milk every day.  Drink more if you are involved in physical activities or spend prolonged periods outdoors in the sun.


Look after your immune system.

Evidence on effective immune boosting supplements is limited.  However, it is well documented that taking in enough carbohydrates around training can help in supporting the immune system.  Weaker evidence suggests that antioxidants such as vitamin C and E as well as zinc, glutamine and probiotics may help to support the immune system.  Be aware that mega doses of certain nutrients may even have negative effects.  In order to ensure you are providing all the potentially immune enhancing nutrients to your body without excess, you should continue to eat a healthy diet, including fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and adequate carbohydrates.


Keep an eye on your alcohol intake.

Think twice before cracking open a beer after training sessions as alcohol is not only loaded with empty calories and promotes fat storage but it may interfere with glycogen storage. Effective glycogen repletion and optimal storage is key in recovering from a training session.  Don’t let that glass of wine get in the way of a PB! 

For any further information, please contact the Pick n Pay Health Hotline dietitian, Teresa Harris on 0800 11 22 88 or e-mail her on healthhotline@pnp.co.za.

For details of a registered sports dietitian in your area, go to the ADSA (Association of Dietetics in SA) website at www.adsa.org.

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