In a race that takes place at night like the Venice Night Trail on August 28, when we talk about pre-race meal we certainly refer to lunch, but also to the afternoon snack. These must be well thought out and adequate, in order to guarantee the body the right energies at the right times, without feeling hungry during the day, an aspect that, added to the pre-competition tension, could lead the athlete to get caught by sudden attacks of nervous hunger and therefore to stumble into counterproductive food errors.
Lunch must necessarily include abundant carbohydrates, because in the following hours you will need immediately available energy, in order to avoid early fatigue and use by the body of muscles or fat reserves as a source of energy, which are more difficult to use. Rice is highly recommended, in abundance, voluminous and well digestible, or even pasta, preferably short and not wholemeal. It is best not to accompany carbohydrates with heavy sauces and dressings or vegetables that provide fiber.
To complete the good supply of energy it is possible to have a snack, in the middle of the afternoon or in any case three hours before the competition, with a sandwich accompanied by lean, light and satiating sliced, or with oily dried fruit, rich in antioxidant principles and good fats. Attention to the portions of course: it is still a snack, and not an additional load that can involve, in an important way, the digestive processes.
If, on the other hand, you want to support your energies at a time closer to the race, it is recommended to take a bar one hour before, which is energetic and non-protein. The protein-based bar is to be dedicated to the post-race, where you certainly have more time for digestion and where you need support for recovery.
Preparation for a competition does not only consist in planning the workouts and physical tests to be faced, but it is also made up of how and what you eat at the table, because even in this case the athlete has a duty to take care of himself.
The evening before a race is a special moment, where it is necessary to direct the diet towards specific choices. No particular changes in your diet are required, just a few small adjustments. It is also essential not to improvise with particular and never tried foods.
The undisputed protagonists of the pre-race dinner are carbohydrates, the primary source of energy, which must be well present in the dish. Be careful to prefer the right ones, avoiding refined sugars. An excellent solution could be a good plate of pasta (better if long, with a lower glycemic index) or rice, seasoned with walnuts, parmesan and extra virgin olive oil, foods rich in antioxidant ingredients. On the other hand, avoid elaborate sauces and condiments, which can weigh down, but also simple vegetable-based sauces, which are normally an excellent combination, but at this moment could bring additional amounts of fiber, which instead, especially the days before a race, must be strictly controlled, in order to avoid overloading the work of the intestine. It is then possible to combine a course of light, easily digestible proteins, such as chicken breast or blue fish.
Alcohol, sugary and nerve drinks are obviously not recommended, as they could make sleep less restful with a negative effect on the performance of the day after.
The week preceding a very important test such as a race represents a real moment of "finishing", because it has a considerable impact on performance.
The athlete should first of all ensure adequate rest, in body and mind, and arrive at the race with the right amount of energy and preparation.
In itself this phase does not require major upheavals, indeed, except for some particular situations, both from a physical and nutritional point of view it is important not to overdo it and to maintain a certain balance.
To obtain a good result without a negative impact on performance, exercises that the athlete masters perfectly and with which he has had positive experiences should be preferred, provided, of course, that they correspond to the profile of the competition. So, in essence, in the week of unloading, short and not very intense workouts are planned, some shots, without exaggerating.
From a food point of view, it is incorrect to think of having to increase calories and the daily share of carbohydrates in order to have greater stocks, indeed, an excessive share of the latter is stored as fat. Instead, it is good to follow a complete and balanced diet, without excesses, which obviously guarantees adequate and valuable glycogen stores for the race, and which does not weigh down the athlete too much. In a first phase it is even recommended with a lower caloric intake, with more space for proteins than carbohydrates.
What is the perfect time to train?
There is a lot of questioning about this aspect, but in reality there is no single answer.
Beyond the individual aspect, which not only includes a person's training state but also his rhythms, habits and lifestyle, in order to give a more complete answer, it is possible to move the question towards the "What is the goal of those who train"?
This is because, by varying the time of day, the type of training to be preferred also varies, and the physiological mechanisms that are put in place during the same activity.
If the goal is to lose weight, for example, the best time to do sports is in the morning, as soon as you wake up, on an empty stomach; in this situation, fat consumption is maximized. However, it is very important to consider that it is not good, at this time of the day, to perform quality tests or to undergo extreme efforts, because the body certainly needs to activate itself, the muscles and joints are still rigid and the energy reserves may be insufficient. for certain types of efforts.
If you train in the late morning, you can instead extend the time and increase the effort required, at least a couple of hours after having a good, balanced breakfast, with carbohydrates and sugars ready to give you the right energy.
If, on the other hand, you want to optimize your performance and take care of your training technique, late afternoon and evening are the most suitable times, when you have an energy peak, your body temperature, and therefore muscle, is higher and you have a greater release of adrenaline.
From the food point of view, in this context, it is good to have eaten balanced meals in the previous hours, in order to ensure adequate supplies of energy to be spent later during the activity.
It should also be noted that carrying out high-intensity and long-lasting activities, a few hours before bedtime, could be harmful, because sleep could be hindered and compromised in its quality.
In conclusion, it is therefore good to evaluate training and the moment in which to practice it according to our needs and goals, and above all by listening to our body and our biorhythms.
Ergogenic substances influence the body's ability to produce energy, in particular they impact sports performance, the perception of fatigue and the speed of recovery.
Through a correct supplementary strategy, it is possible to benefit from the intake of these aids.
In the Runner, the first factors impacting on performance are certainly training and balanced nutrition; however some substances can be considered to improve potency and to reduce the perception of fatigue.
Caffeine, for example, is one of the most studied supplements; it is a stimulant that exerts direct effects on the cardiovascular system, increasing the heart rate, and on the central nervous system, stimulating mental and mnemonic abilities.
Numerous scientific studies confirm the effectiveness of this substance in improving performance in endurance sports, at high intensity and in team sports, with discontinuous shots.
In the Runner it can help improving reaction times, wakefulness, stimulating the adrenergic system, positive effects achieving a better psychophysical performance.
Thanks to its rapid ability to cross biological membranes, Caffeine can be taken during the race to overcome moments of "difficulty", and maximum fatigue, through gels, in association with a correct intake of carbohydrates and sugars, such as maltodextrins , for the gradual release of energy.
Another substance that can be considered by the Runner is Carnitine, because it is often lacking (especially in those who train for a marathon), and because it is useful for energy purposes.
This substance is synthesized by the body, is present in skeletal muscles, heart muscle, kidneys and liver, and is found mainly in foods of animal origin. However, it can also be taken as a food supplement, since, carrying out its role in the oxidation process of fatty acids, resulting in the production of energy, it leads to a better use of fat energy, favoring glycogen savings, and reducing the risk of muscle damage.
In a correct and balanced diet, the balance between macronutrients is essential.
Considering the variability of nutritional needs from person to person, in athletes not satisfying the energy needs has negative repercussions not only on the state of health but also on performance.
Running represents the perfect type of aerobic training, where the most important fuels are first of all carbohydrates, but certainly also fats.
Carbohydrates and fats, in the right proportions, must never be lacking.
Carbohydrates, traditionally classified into simple (sugars) and complex (starches and fibers), are stored in the form of glycogen in the liver, to keep blood sugar stable, and in the muscles where they are used for energy, but also have a reserve function and support. Each carbohydrate produces a different response in the body, also in response to the intensity and duration of exercise, physical fitness and pre-workout diet.
Whether it is training or competition, the first step is to assume, through nutrition, the qualitatively and quantitatively correct carbohydrate share, in order to optimize performance; for example, before a workout, 1-2 hours before, it is possible to have a snack with low glycemic index carbohydrates (for example with an energy bar or semi-wholemeal rusks), while before or during a competition, when the performance it will be long-lasting, it is possible to take some food supplements, such as maltodextrins, which are well assimilated, and with a gradual release of energy, without affecting blood sugar.
Lipids, commonly called fats, also play a fundamental role in the body; participate in the structure of membranes and tissues, provide essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins.
For the Runner, fats represent a wild card to provide energy to the body already in low intensity or when glycogen stores begin to run low.
In traditional diets, fats are demonized, pushing towards high-protein diets, when instead we must always take into account the quality and type of macronutrients taken. Therefore, in everyday nutrition, unsaturated and non-hydrogenated fats should be preferred; we find them for example in extra virgin olive oil, dried fruit, oil seeds, but also in some plant species, such as avocado, and animals, such as salmon and herring.
The world of energy gels or commonly called "Carbogel" is constantly evolving, there are various types with characteristics of composition, volume and taste very different from each other.
Fundamental in all is the presence of sugars and carbohydrates, in different percentages and of different nature, so as to ensure constant energy with different releases depending on the type of product.
The most commonly used carbohydrates are:
- Maltodextrins:slow-absorption maize derivatives, necessary to the maintenance of constant energy levels, without fast absorption peaks.Used in products that have a slow "duration of action", should be taken about every 50 minutes
- Cyclodextrins: Maltodextrin-like substances, which are even more gradually absorbed, such as maltodextrins, are also used in long-acting products and should be taken approximately every 50 to 60 minutes
- Fructose: in a small percentage it favors gastric emptying, it is neves used alone because it could give intestinal problems
- Dextrose: fast sugar, is used in "fast" formulations, immediate energy, usually in the final part of the races for the sprint to the finish line.
When choosing a gel, it is important to consider not only the quantity of product, but first of all the concentration of carbohydrates that allows the distinction between isotonic and hypertonic (All this information is clearly legible on the label).
- Isotonic: is a type of gel that can be taken away from refreshments because you do not need to drink water after ingesting it. It usually has a volume of 50-60 ml and a carbohydrate content of about 30g
- Hypertonic: is a type of gel that must necessarily be taken with water to avoid problems of intestinal discomfort and cramps. It usually has a volume between 25 and 50 ml, with a carbohydrate content of 25-30g.
Post workout management is important because a proper recovery is necessary for good performance in later trainings.
In summertime we have to re-introduce the lost liquids, in 60 minutes of running liter of water is lost and it has to be promptly replenished with the addition of mineral salts (especially magnesium and potassium) and fast sugars, such as those contained in fresh seasonal fruit.
Recovery after intense training also includes the reparation of the muscular structure stressed, this happens thanks to the integration with essential amino acids, those that our body does not produce and must introduce only with the diet.
Talking about recovery means the timing of taking specific products too. You need to replenish the substance needed to the body to quickly return to the best state of form and to face new challenges. This time space is the so-called "anabolic window", the 30 minutes after the end of the activity, the most important phase of the athlete’s training program, the body’s muscle-building.
The famous long run before the half marathon race...it is about an 18 km training that is necessary to adapt the muscles and the mental challenge to prolonged and constant effort. the key to successful half marathon training is consistently putting in enough weekly mileage to get your body accustomed to running for long periods of time
Take the right pace: the beginner will do it slower than the most experienced runner.
Plan your long-distance run like it will be the race day: same breakfast, starting time and nutritional strategy during the training, organize the road to have fountains to mimic the refreshments, or bring a bottle with water, in case there are no fountains during the route.
About 10-15 minutes before starting take a Prestart Shot and at mid-race a gel, preferably the same type that will be used during the race.
At the end of the workout replenish fluids: water or a fruit juice and eventually add the mineral salts (magnesium, potassium, and sodium) and amino acids, essentials for increasing endurance and muscle recovery.
The preparation for the half marathon includes training at different intensity and distance, tempo run fartlek and speed workout once a week, speed exercises are designed to help you move faster, if you are on of the experienced runners: individuals who compete regularly in 5K, 10K.
Your reps need to be run at speeds that are faster than race pace. You will run them over a short distance, have a rest and then go again. You will do this several times over. By getting your body used to running at this faster pace, your race pace will feel easy when the gun goes off and so you will be able to increase the pace as the race goes on or even start more quickly.
To get ready for this type of training the advice is to take a light snack 3 hours before starting and add 2 or 3 tablets of creatine 1g during the carbohydrate-rich snack.
Drink water with high mineral content, especially now that it starts to get hot, you need to be well hydrated before training and eventually bring a bottle of water, to take a sip between the reps.
There is only a month left to go before race day, you're training with your legs, brain and heart…so together we plan the energy fuel for running.
The supplementation strategy to follow during the race must be studied and planned before the race week, as to test the supplements that will be used and the time intervals that will pass between gels.
About 15 minutes before departure the advice is to take a Prestart shot: 40 ml of energetic and muscular activation, alone or with a glass of water immediately after drinking it.
The right time for its use is close to the start, therefore the tolerance test can be done both before an exit from 15 km, and before a training from 10 km.
During the race there will be refreshments with water every 5 km, it will depend a lot on the temperatures, but a sip of water at each refreshment will avoid risks of dehydration, especially for the fact that the departure is evening and at the end of June the temperatures will be typically of summertime (hopefully).
The integration strategy is definitely individual, but we suggest three options to follow:
- Carbosprint ultrarace at 12 km. it is an isotonic gel, so you can take it without water and away from the refreshment
- Carbosprint extreme at 15° km with a sip of water closely to the refreshment
- Carbosprint gel at 10° and at 15° km with a sip of water closely to the refreshment
Testing everything in training means trying one gel at a time, even before leaving from 10 km run, just to assess the tolerance and the effect on your body.
Enjoy your races!
Breakfast is the most delicate moment for managing a good training or a good race when you train in the morning.
Starting with an empty stomach and nutrients in circulation, allows the muscles to face the work they will face, thus avoiding all those problems related to digestion, ranging from cramps to various pains between liver and spleen.
Gastric emptying time is different from person to person, but in general we can consider about two and a half hours (three for those who are slower digesting and more sensitive) as the necessary time between breakfast and training.
The options to choose from for an energetic and balanced breakfast are:
- Ham and white bread, with coffee or green tea
- Rusks and jam or honey, added with coconut oil, with coffee or green tea
- Rice cake without milk and dairy products, with coffee or green tea
Coffee and green tea are recommended as soft and diluted drinks, this ensures a double effect: reduction of irritation at the gastric level and liquid recovery of lost fluids during the night through breathing.
If you choose an espresso instead of tea or American coffee, is better to drink a plenty glass of mineral water to maintain a good hydrating balance before starting.
To support long efforts, more of 2 hours of training, is better to dissolve maltodextrins powder in water, as an extra shot of energy before running.
Doc. Annalisa Faè
The body can adapt to anything, from physical exertion to climate…on his own time.
Running in the heat is initially difficult, the organism needs time to get used and adapting the running rhythm. The average time foe the heat adaptation is 14 days: at the beginning you will sweat a lot, then less until the balance point, when you will be ready for quality workouts.
Sweating means losing water, sodium, magnesium and potassium, electrolytes that must be reintegrated at the end of the training, with a balanced saline solution: the advice is to drink about 500/1000ml after the running session.
The simplest method to calculate the amount of water lost is to weight yourself before running and immediately after, the difference between pre and post is the amount of water lost.
The management of hydration during training needs more organization, search for routes with fountains or run with the bottle holder could help to drink during more than 10 km runs, considering intervals that are similar to the race.
Among all the minerals that are lost with sweating sodium is the one that is lost in greater quantity and is the most important to be reintegrated as it regulates numerous functions of the organism, it could be reintegrated with recovery mix immediately after training and trough normal nutrition, for example adding table salt to dishes.
Doc. Annalisa Faè
New goals on the air, it is time to start again (for some athletes continue) to train seriously, maybe the physical shape is not that of a year ago. For someone the forced sedentariness and the work at home, with the pantry too close, led to accumulate a bit of fat.
Some useful advice to manage meals during this first period:
- Start your meal with plenty of raw vegetables
- Avoid crackers and other bread substitutes during main meals
- Eat pasta at lunch, only on training days
- During the rest days, prefer proteins (white meat, ham, lean fish, pulses) in both meals, always accompanied by abundant vegetables
- Make 2 snacks a day, one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon, with fresh fruit and nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews)
- Have a protein rich breakfast, instead of sugars rich one, for example wholemeal biscuits with ricotta cheese and jam or with a protein chocolate spread