Runners need to store sufficient muscle fuel to see out the event. A trained runner should not have too much difficulty preparing for events up to the half-marathon. In Chapter 4.2 you read that adequate muscle glycogen levels can be stored with a high-carbohydrate diet (daily intake of 7–12 g per kg of body weight) and 24–36 hours of taper or rest. For weekly events, such as a season of cross-country races, you may like to schedule training sessions to achieve an adequate taper at the end of the week. Carbohydrate loading is almost synonymous with the marathon— and rightly so. Races of this length and longer will burn up as much muscle glycogen as you can store. But despite the hype—or perhaps because of it—many runners do not know how to carbohydrate load properly. In the case study reported below, some runners did a better job of ‘garb-loading’ than ‘carbo-loading’. Read Chapter 4.3 for the lowdown on loading. Runners who like to race with a light stomach can modify the fiber and bulk in their diets over the 12–24 hours before the event to help clear out their gastrointestinal system.
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The pre-race meal
With early-morning races, it is tempting to sleep in for as long as possible—thus skipping breakfast. Some runners worry that they will suffer from gastrointestinal upsets if they eat a big breakfast before a race. However, the pre-event meal is vital. It is the last opportunity to top up glycogen stores—particularly in the liver—and fluid levels.
In many cases, a light snack, even a couple of pieces of toast and a drink, might be the best menu. If your race starts later in the day there might be time for a larger meal three to four hours beforehand. Don’t forget fluids, especially if the day is hot. Liquid meal supplements provide a compact and quickly digested alternative to solid food in situations where time is scarce or pre-race nerves are a problem.
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