A version of this article was originally published in the Bromsgrove Standard newspaper on the 26th April 2019.
Ever wondered what a racing driver eats on a race weekend to keep his or her energy levels up? Let me give you an insight. I’m not a qualified nutritionist, so please don’t treat this as gospel, but I know what works for me. You need to find a balance that suits your own body, and hopefully there are some good tips here.
If you were planning a long journey, you would always make sure that your car had enough fuel in it to complete the trip. Well, you should think about your body in the same way. Before I put my body through the rigours of a race, I want to make sure it’s got enough energy to go the distance.
And, just like you’d never put diesel fuel in your petrol car, I want to make sure I’m putting the right kind of fuel in my body. Eating the right foods at the right time is important to help me stay fresh and alert.
On the morning of a race, I want something that will top my body up with slow-release energy so that I don’t need to snack mid-morning. Porridge is king in this arena! Eating it with fresh fruit, such as banana or blueberries, and a drizzle of natural honey, is not only a delicious start to the day, it also gives my body everything it needs before a race.
On the opposite end of the scale, fry-ups aren’t great preparation because they take a long time to digest, meaning they can make you feel lethargic at a time when you need to be alert. On top of that, the energy that a full English breakfast provides probably won’t be ready to draw upon if you’ve got a race in the morning. And you definitely don’t want to skip breakfast altogether, as this will affect both attention and energy levels.
Right before a race (or indeed exercise of any kind), it’s important to drink plenty of water so that both body and mind are well-hydrated. During a race, my breathing rate increases and on hot days I will also sweat a fair amount, so being topped up with fluid before a race helps prevent sluggishness and loss of concentration that can result from dehydration.
Unsurprisingly, my body uses a lot of energy during a race! Immediately afterwards, I need to replenish that energy as quickly as possible to prevent my body from dipping into its reserves. I tend to do multiple races in a day so my focus now switches to preparing for the next one. More water here, and protein, protein, protein.
Specialist products such as protein drinks and bars or flapjacks (more yummy oats) do a great job of giving the body what it needs to recover. Just as I refuel my car between races, I need to refuel my body too. Avocados, bananas, nuts and seeds are the right kind of fuel for the job. Natural sugars that don’t take too long to break down and can provide an instant boost of energy are also great.
Finally, at the end of a long day of exercise, lean proteins from foods such as chicken, eggs and leafy green vegetables prevent my muscles form aching and set me up for a good night’s sleep. Because the next day, I’ve got to do it all again!
This article gives a bit of insight into how I regulate my diet to help me stay in peak condition during a race weekend. It just goes to show that you can adopt a healthy eating regime and still eat delicious foods whilst exercising.