Mark Wolff - 26 July 2022

How to avoid catastrophic taper weight gain

So, now we’re entering a phase which is getting closer to race day. This requires a slightly different mindset and different focus. Now you enter the taper period. The taper period now is going to be a drop in volume of training, some sharpening, and you hopefully will get to race day nice and fresh and ready to perform.

But there is something that you need to consider, and this is the nutrition as you head towards race day. You want to get there healthy, you also want to get there in the right race weight. A lot of athletes make the mistake of consuming the same amount of calories during the taper period, as they were when they were really putting in heavy volumes of training. It’s important to understand that that can be a big mistake. Why?

Taper calories to match your training

Because when you are training at a high rate, and you are doing a lot of volume training. You’re burning off a large amount of calories on a daily basis, and you can afford to consume a large amount of calories to try and maintain an energy balance. But now that the volume of training comes down, your calorie intake is going to come down. Why?

Because you’re burning off less calories on a daily basis, so you cannot be consuming the same amount of calories as you were when your volume of training was up here. I see athletes so often eating the same amount of calories as they were when they go into the taper period. Yet they’re burning off way less calories on a daily basis. What is this going to cause?

The last thing you want…

It’s going to cause you to gain weight during that taper period, and if it’s a long taper, you probably will gain weight. And that means you get to race day heavier than when you were during training. That’s the last thing you want. Can you imagine running an ultra-marathon at a kilogram heavier than you were in training? And, I’m not talking about topping up glycogen stores and water storage, I’m talking about actual weight gain.

You run the risk of cramping, muscle fatigue, maybe injury. You don’t want to go and do a race at a much heavier weight. You want to make sure that you are in the most optimal weight for that race, and that will be at least the same or similar weight to what you were doing during training. Because that is what you were comfortable with and that is the weight that you train. So just make sure that there’s no excessive eating during that period. Tone down the calories and make sure that it matches your burn rate on a daily basis.

Eat foods that will help (not hinder) your race

Another thing to stress is you should be focused on eating nutrient dense foods, healthy foods, not junk foods. Now is the time where your immune system is at its lowest. It’s also where you need to focus on recovery and repair work. You want to make sure that the body is in an anabolic state, not a catabolic state.

You want to build yourself up and you want to make sure you get to race day in the best possible state as you can. So, make sure that you’re giving nutrition a lot of focus over the next couple of weeks, so that you get to race day in excellent shape.

If you missed the previous episodes in our Ultra Marathon Fuelling Series...

Episode 1 ↠ A BIG mistake people make close to Comrades Marathon

Episode 2 ↠ How to know what (if any) fuel to take for your session

Episode 3 ↠ Carbs per hour required to fuel your Ultra Marathon

Episode 4 ↠ Don't forget to feed! Maximise performance by splitting calorie intake

Episode 5 ↠ Nail your next event with these hydration musts!

Episode 6 ↠ 4 Steps to Recover like a Pro

Episode 7 ↠ Wake up at the last minute (and fail your race)!

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