As part of my Sports Nutrition diploma, I was tasked with compiling a menu for an individual competing in a 10 kilometre race. The focus was on pre, during and post event nutrition. I created an imaginary client, John Doe, and detailed the full optimal nutritional support for John for the evening before and the day of the race. This full nutritional support includes proper nutrient loading for performance and recovery, and optimal fluid consumption. I created a profile for John as well as documenting a high level training plan. I also assumed John to be a regular office worker with the intention of sharing this as a case study on Office Worker Health in the hope that anyone reading it could get some value from the plan the next time they are preparing for a similar race. See below for what I submitted (and gained a distinction for!). If you use any of this advice for an upcoming event then please let me know how you get on!
The main physical demands of a 10 kilometre race involve maintaining consistent speed and endurance from start to finish. Finding the perfect mix of speed and endurance is what’s required for a runner to support a decent or even vigorous pace. It’s important for the athlete to prepare their body for the exact physiological challenges of a 10k race distance, to teach the body and mind how to push through the tough parts of the race, and to perfect a pacing strategy that allows the athlete to run on the edge of their limits.
John Doe is 34 years of age and in good health. John is 178 cm (5 foot 10 inches) tall and weighs 75 kilograms. John’s somatotype can be described as mesomorph.
In preparation for this event, we adopted a two phased training approach. Phase 1 involved building John’s base running fitness as high as possible by balancing his development of aerobic fitness. We achieved this through four types of workouts over the course of 8 weeks:
- Easy runs
- Tempo runs (lactate threshold) to increase metabolic fitness
- Speed workouts (VO2 max) to increase the amount of oxygen the body can use
- Strides and short hill sprints (neuromuscular development) to improve form, efficiency and resistance to fatigue
Phase 2 involved 6 weeks of race specific training. The objective of this training was to slowly adapt the body to racing at the target 10k pace and managing the entire distance comfortably by progressively increasing distances week by week.
Part 1 – Pre-Event Nutrition
What you put in your body in the weeks, days and hours leading up to a race will have a major impact on how well you perform. For this 10k run we are concentrating solely on John’s nutrition intake the night before and the morning of the run however the focus for a number of weeks in advance has been on whole grains, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats.
The Night Before
The night before the race, the key is to avoid making any drastic changes to John’s diet. With this in mind, John will have a carbohydrate-based evening meal (being careful to avoid carb overload and the sluggishness this could produce the next day). The size of the meal will be the same as John’s normal evening meal with some subtle differences. The plate will be loaded with 50-75% complex carbohydrates (whole grain pasta) with roughly 25% comprising lean protein of John’s choice (i.e. eggs, chicken, turkey). A small amount of fat (the yolks from the eggs for example) will round off the plate. We want to avoid any high fat foods such as cream, pastry or cheese sauces as they will transit slowly through the gut. The aim with the meal is to keep it low in fibre so salads and vegetables are being kept to a minimum.
John will monitor his fluid intake in the weeks leading up to the race and this is what will determine how much water to drink the night before. The target is for the urine to be of a light (straw) colour; this is an indicator of adequate hydration. John will avoid alcohol in the lead up to the race, in particular the night before.
The Morning of the Race
Breakfast is mandatory before any race in order to top up muscle glycogen levels and should be consumed 2 to 3 hours before the start of the run. As with dinner the night before, John’s pre-race meal will be something he is accustomed to. John’s breakfast will be porridge with banana and a sprinkle of whey protein powder. The oats are loaded with complex carbs and will provide slow release energy and optimal fuel for the body to burn. The banana will provide yet more carbs as well as a potassium boost which will be lost through sweat during the run. The added protein will help John feel full longer.
For hydration, I’ve recommended John drink 500ml of fluid (mainly water) from the time he wakes until the start of the race. A drink with sodium (sports drink) can be consumed as the body will retain this better than water (plus it will include some carbohydrates) however this should not be trialled for the first time on the morning of a race.
Part 2 – During the Event
I believe that John will have adequately fuelled his body the night and morning before the race (assuming all the above steps are adhered to) so he should have enough stored energy in his body to run the 10k without requiring a top up during the event. It’s impossible to know what the conditions will be like in advance though so this will be a consideration on the day. If for example it’s a hot day, I have advised John to consume 300ml or 400ml of water spread over regular intervals at the refuelling stations along the route. No food should be consumed during the race.
Part 3 – Post-Event Nutrition
By the end of the race John will have used up most of his carbohydrate stores, be a little dehydrated and suffered some minor muscle damage. To help him recover quickly, fluid consumption (water and sports drink to replace sugars and salt) will begin immediately after the race and continue until rehydration. Sipping cold water will also begin to cool the inner, core temperature and get blood re-circulated.
A recovery meal should be consumed on site straight after the race (within 30 minutes of finishing as it’s during this time frame that muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen). The recovery meal will be a protein fruit smoothie of bananas, strawberries, greek yoghurt and water (including whey protein powder). This high protein and carb smoothie will properly aid muscle recovery.
This is to be followed 2 to 3 hours later with a normal balanced meal containing protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals – this will help the body re-stabilise blood sugar and drive cortisol down, allowing for a steady stream of nutrients into recovering muscles. The key is to steer well clear of really fatty foods.
For optimum refuelling, I recommend the following low-GI meal, taken with fluids. Firstly we have a low-GI carbohydrate (whole grain rice or sweet potato), matched with a protein source (grilled chicken) with lots of vegetables or salad, and finally a half avocado which adds a healthy fat to the meal.
I always advise dividing food intake into 5 or 6 eating occasions a day, and not to leave any gaps longer than 3 to 4 hours without eating (not including sleeping). With that in mind John needs to support the above nutrition plan with healthy snacks on the evening of the race to ensure the body stores up fuel as efficiently as possible in the muscles. Healthy snacks that I’ve proposed are whole grain bread and cheese, a handful of nuts, chopped fruit, yoghurt drink and oatcakes with peanut or almond butter.
I have based this nutrition plan on John’s height, weight, Body Mass Index, level of body fat and current level of activity. John requires about 2700 calories per day to maintain his current weight. With that in mind and taking into account the increased carbs and protein required on the day of a race, the following targets were used to draw up the menu:
- 25% Protein
- 60% Carbohydrates
- 15% Fat
The above nutrition plan and regular fluid intake combined with proper post-race stretching and a soak in the bath are designed to optimise muscle recovery from strenuous activity.
Yours in health,
P.S I love talking about wellness so feel free to drop me a line to discuss any of the above. Contact me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Low Down
Brian Crooke is a wellness consultant specialising in the design, improvement and auditing of wellness initiatives for Irish businesses. He is the founder of Office Worker Health, a platform dedicated to promoting health and wellbeing to the working population.
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