Sunday, 13 September 2015

What should I eat before the Rock Solid Race?

Some of my friends are doing another obstacle race soon, namely the Rock Solid Race, also known as an Obstacle Course Race (OCR) which is a military type course.  It involves some running, climbing, crawling, pulling, pushing, lugging a log around and so on.  In length it will be 5 - 10k and might take 1 or 2 hours to complete.   In other words it is a good all-round workout needing strength, stamina, agility and some confidence to do those crazy things!

My friend John is always keen to adopt best practice when it comes to these events (and I'm quite impressed by that).  This shows itself in his preparation, training, knowing what to do at the event, what to wear and so on.  He has now specifically asked about nutrition.

First of all, John has volunteered his previous nutrition as:

Breakfast at 7:30am
Two slices of toast
Cup of tea

Morning snack
Cereal bar

During OCR
Cereal bar

After OCR
Sandwiches x3

Here are my thoughts:
John is taking part in a demanding OCR and it will be at a time of year when it will be pleasantly warm but not too hot.  I am working on the basis there are no medical problems and this is simply general advice.  I should say John is around 15 years younger than me, slim and looks a good healthy weight.

Hydration starts the day before.  Make sure you drink plenty at least 12 hours before the OCR and this will make sure the body is well hydrated.  Now I am not talking alcohol here (especially as I'm teetotal myself) but instead the usual glass of water, fruit juice or tea etc.

Carbohydrates is an interesting topic.  Many athletes and sporty types talk about carb-loading in the days before an event.  I don't think this is necessary for this event, general fitness and no excessive food is required.  Yesterday I ran a half marathon in 1:45 without drinking or eating anything on-the-go.  If I was going much further I would need rehydrating and taking on a little food.

Breakfast needs to be a normal meal as it is several hours before the event - it's still good to build up a little fuel in the tank here.  I am not a fan of cornflakes as they are often processed and refined foods, laden with sugar and additives. I think John has shop-bought white cotton wool bread, though he has been rumoured to have a slightly healthier "half and half".  I asked John what he puts on his fruit and he replied "Marmalade".

"It's all very well having marmalade but don't think it counts as fruit i.e. one of your five-a-day" I commented.  John looked a little disappointed.  Sorry John.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  I certainly treat it that way and make sure I get a good mixture of different foods i.e. fruit, a glass of smoothie (I like a wide variety) and some gravel.  Gravel, by the way, is what my wife calls my muesli.  I'll tell you another time about what goes into my gravel.

So John, make sure your breakfast is more wholesome, it should include some fruit (perhaps either whole fruit or a smoothie or fruit juice).  Try something like this:

This is a typical breakfast for me.  Smoothie with gravel.  On the gravel you can see there is some chopped up fruit with some yoghurt making this a very healthy meal, full of goodness.

Mid morning snack needs to be something easily digestible and not too heavy going. Have whatever you fancy and ensure your fluids are maintained.  You could try one of those energy drinks I gave you.  There's no point in having something fizzy as this is just short term, quick burn sugar.  Something with some carbohydrate and protein will be okay.  Don't go trying anything new just before a race - if it doesn't "agree" with you you'll be risking blowing the whole event and end up feeling awful.

The race itself!  For the OCR you shouldn't need anything else.  You should be sufficiently fuelled within yourself.

Having learnt myself from making the odd mistake, I can tell you that running with undigested food in my stomach is absolutely horrible.  It is probably the closest I'll ever get to feeling pregnant.  Pregnant with twins no less.

After the race is still important when it comes to your nutrition.  You see, when you run or do any OCR you are putting a lot of strain on your body - muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments all taking some damage.  Repairing this damage needs good quality protein and some antioxidants.  John will remember our friend Nettie posting photos of her bruised knees!  This is an outward sign of the battering our bodies get and clearly needs repairing.

Protein comes in many forms and in many foods, excellent for building muscles etc. Antioxidants help mop up free radicals which are released during exercising and these, if unchecked, can be harmful.  So even something as straightforward as a banana is very good.  You could go one step further and have a fruit juice and a muesli bar.

If you get cramp at all, this could be a sign of running low on some minerals / electrolytes which again bananas or other fruit can help with. High 5 and others often do electrolyte drinks which are good for this.  On the other hand, cram is not fully understood by the medical profession and it can be linked to a number of possible causes.  Linking cramp to a nutritional deficiency does seem plausible.

Wrapping up

  • Make sure you include more fruit in your diet before and after the event
  • Don't eat too much immediately before the OCR or you will feel bloated (or pregnant!)
  • Make sure you are well hydrated
  • Make sure your pre event foods include the right mixture of proteins, carbohydrates etc
  • Make sure you have some recovery food ready afterwards such as a banana, fruit juice or a commercially made recovery drink
I could waffle on for ages about all kinds of other good foods to eat i.e. making sure we get our Omega 3 and 6, getting the soluble and insoluble fibre mixture right.  The most important thing is to ensure you eat a wide variety of good, wholesome and natural food.  

Enjoy your food, enjoy knowing it is doing you a whole load of good!

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