Building Champions Program’s Lee Hogan gives us the run-down on race day nutrition.
When preparing for an event, we all make sure our bike and gear is sparkling clean, give the van a wash and organise our spare parts in case we step over the bars and bend a lever or set of ‘bars. But most people neglect the one area that can make the difference between winning and losing – race day nutrition. Let’s take a closer look!
Putting junk food in your body on race day is just like putting your average, cheap pump gas into a modified, high compression motorcycle or car. The motor will drop in horsepower almost immediately and start to detonate and carry on terribly.
Good fuel always burns at a higher performance level, whether we are talking combustion engines or the human body. So for that reason it’s important to remember to choose your food based on performance and not on taste. For race day at least.
One of the main questions I get asked about nutrition is what should I be eating the night before the event. The main thing to remember is to try to have something high in carbohydrates and avoid a big, fat, heavy steak.
The steak will still be digesting in your stomach by the time your first race comes around and is extremely high in protein which won’t serve you much in the energy department. A nice bowl of rice or pasta with some low fat chicken or fish (white meats) and vegetables will work perfect for you.
Try to avoid creamy sauces and substitute them with a tomato based sauce if you have to, or no sauce which is even better. Also try not to cram a massive amount of food into your stomach during dinner because your body can only digest so much at a time.
By splitting it into two separate meals over a two-hour period your body will digest all of it and therefore store more energy for you for tomorrow’s big event.
You need to drink massive amounts of water the day before an event. Anywhere from two to four litres is acceptable depending on your length of races and weather conditions for the following day.
However, try to drink the majority of your water early on in the day prior to the race otherwise you will find yourself up all night going to the toilet which will cut down your much needed sleep time.
Race Day Breakfast
If you are anything like I used to be on the morning of race day then you most likely feel a bit nervous and couldn’t possibly fit in the amount of food that you should be.
It is a natural reaction to lose a bit of your appetite on the morning of an event, however it is a time when we should be upping our fuel intake.
The best way I found to do this was to make up a protein shake with a bunch of different ingredients that not only gets the right amount of fuel in, but does it in a way that won’t make you feel sick or bloated.
If you stacked up the ingredients of my breakfast protein shake, there is no way you would individually make it all the way through, and even if you did it would take you about half an hour to do so. Not the kind of time we have spare on race day morning.
Protein shake ingredients:
- Two bananas
- One egg
- Tablespoon of honey
- One handful of frozen berries
- Two tablespoons of high quality protein powder
- One teaspoon of Glucosamine (powder for joint stability and health)
- Fat free soy milk or low fat milk to taste
The example I have given here is just that, an example. You can change key ingredients around but try to avoid throwing in chocolate topping or ice-cream as they won’t serve a purpose other than tasting good.
I found that soy milk settles your stomach a lot better than cows milk on the morning of a race but that’s just me. The best way to find out what works for you is to experiment a little bit.
Race Day Lunch
For those of you that have taken the time to venture down to the canteen at your local motocross track you will have noticed that the place seemed to be stocked for everyone except the rider.
Pies, pasties, sausage rolls, hot-dogs, chocolate bars, fizzy drinks and if you’re lucky, hamburgers with the lot are the norm at these places and are high on the list of what to avoid on race day.
On the odd occasion you may come across a motocross club that have a small, separate section stocked with freshly made ham and salad rolls, fruit packs and sports drinks. But it is a rarity!
The best bet by far is to leave the race day canteen to the brothers, sisters, girlfriends, mums and dads who the food stock is mainly aimed at and take the time to prepare an esky the day before racing with all of your essentials that you will need to make it through the day.
- At least four litres of water
- Two bottles of Powerade/Gatorade to be mixed 50/50 with water
- Three bananas
- Two wholemeal rolls (white if can’t stomach wholemeal on race-day)
- Fresh ham or chicken, tomato, lettuce, carrot, cucumber (Avoid cheese and butter if possible)
- Avocado is a great substitute for butter
- Fruit packs are handy and good for you on race day (sugar free)
The ingredients list above is an example of what I would have during an outdoor national day. It is important to spread your meals out throughout the day into five separate small meals, instead of guttsing down three big ones.
Your body can’t digest huge amounts of food at one time so you will be wasting a lot of potential energy while most likely making yourself feel sick and bloated in the process.
Remember to leave the canteen food to your family and get a lock and key for your well prepared race day esky. Good luck!