How to eat & drink in the week leading up to Comrades Marathon

How to eat & drink in the week leading up to Comrades Marathon

With just over a week to the 2016 Comrades Marathon, we look towards that final taper. Not just from a nutritional point of view, as everything plays a role in your pre-race homeostasis being optimal. Hear more from Mark Wolff on this episode of 32Gi Sports Nutrition.




Welcome to this addition of 32Gi Sports Nutrition, with myself David Katz Mr Active and Mark Wolff. We continue our build up to the Comrades Marathon. Sunday a week people will be racing from Pietermaritzberg to Durban, 2016 of course is a Down run.

Mark taper becomes very important for any runners and when you look at endurance events probably even more so. With a week to go what should people be starting to look at?

4 key elements when it comes to tapering

MW: Well I think there’s a few key elements that we really need to look at when it comes to tapering. Obviously tapering starts a couple of weeks before Comrades. So obviously from a training point of view .

I think there’s four key elements which athletes need to take into consideration. The first is immune system strength the second is weight management. We talking about muscle recovery and obviously race fuel preparation.

So looking at the immune system I think one of the biggest fears any athlete has actually got is actually getting closer to race day and falling ill. I succumbed to that in the 2014 Down run I had to pull out.

I was actually put onto antibiotics about six days before the event. So I had to pull out due to that. So that’s one of the worst things that can happen and you know after especially preparing for so long.

So one of the things that you do need to focus on to keep your immunity up is proper rest, proper sleep. But over and above that eating, healthy nutrient dense foods, rich in minerals rich in vitamins.

Cutting down the sugars and cutting down the stimulants and really trying to get all the good nutrition into the body. In order to be able to make sure that your immune system is strong.

Avoid putting on weight ahead of race day

Over and above that I mentioned weight management. The last thing you want to do is arrive at race day heavier than what you’ve been training at. We mentioned in the previous podcast. Running a few thousand steps or even more than a few thousand steps, thousands and thousands of steps over a period of a day at a heavier weight is absolutely going to destroy you.

Because the thing is that your body is not use to that. Carrying a heavier is not where you want to be. So I mean you putting a risk of cramping there, injury and really having a very sluggish and nasty day out.

So one of the biggest problems that athletes face is when they come out of heavy bouts of volume training is that they tend to start, carry on actually eating the same. As they were when they were training quite heavily. You need to actually lower your calorie intake.

You need to, I believe in eating for the way you training and you need to drop.  So you need to drop down your calorie intake and make sure that you eating according to the kind of actual training that you doing. It’s more functional eating, don’t overdo it. Keep it very well balanced so that you don’t gain any weight leading up to the even.

Have your nutritional plan ready in advance

Tapering is also always about, it’s about muscle recovery. Making sure that you get to the event strong. Make sure that you are taking in the right amount of protein to support your system.

Generally for an endurance athlete we’ve mentioned in our protein podcast, we’d look at around 1.4 gram to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

It will be worth it, while spreading that out through the day, so getting the right amount of protein into your system. Then also from a nutrition point of view you make sure that you actually just do some minor tweaking and testing on your race nutrition. Just to check that it’s all in check.

I mean tapering is not about cutting out training completely. You still gonna have a little bit of intensity thrown in there. You still gonna be doing some running. One of the things that you should be doing is just making sure that in the back of your mind your nutrition is pretty down pat.

Cut out toxins and stimulants at least a week before

That week before the event is so critical because you can make or break it depending on what you do. The rule of thumb for me is number one, zero alcohol consumption. Cut the alcohol out completely. There is absolutely no need to drink. Not even a glass of wine or beer.

If you want to, save it for after the event. Alcohol does dehydrate you, whether you like it or not. Taking it in 72 to 48 hours before an event can impede your ability to perform on the day. Really not a necessity and should be avoided.

Reduce or cut out sugar intake. Again there’s no need to consume sugars. Let your energy system be fuelling itself quite naturally. With its own energy stores and not actually stimulating the body too much.

Reduce the amount of stimulants that you taking in and that’s in the form of caffeine obviously, or guarana or whatever other stimulants you possibly could be taking.

I would avoid eating out as much as possible, I don’t trust restaurant food. Eating out the week before an event you never know what it could lead to. The last thing you want is some sort of a stomach bug or some sort of an issue when you get closer to that event.

So really just try and keep it very well balanced, try and stick to I would say a nice portion of vegetables and fruits through the day. Obviously that’s for the carbohydrate eaters.

For the low carb eaters, again you can take in some nutrient dense vegetables which are low in carbs. Manage to get those into the system again to keep the immune system up. And really just make sure that you hydrate properly.

Each day try and consume I would say anywhere from 30 to 40 millilitres per a kilogram of body weight. So if you around 60 kilos, you looking at around two to two and a half litres of water per day leading up to the event. I think if you stick to this you’ll get to race day in pretty decent shape. Hopefully healthy, hopefully feeling fit and strong and ready to take on the big C.

Should you reduce fibre intake close to race day?

DK: Now Mark I wanted to ask you about fibre. We did that podcast recently with James Cunnama and Jodie Swallow. That was one of the things that they both said; three days at least before they start to cut out fibre completely. Yes they competing at the top end of their sport; but can this, does this benefit every athlete?

MW: I think it’s very interesting question James and Jody have experimented significantly with the nutrition over the years. They know what works and what doesn’t. Most athletes should be doing that. Even an amateur athlete should be doing that.

I do tend to agree in reducing fibre the week before the event without a doubt. I mean taking down the amount of fibre that you take in, there’s no need to take in a large amount of fibre. I agree around the 24 to 48 hour mark before the event also cutting the fibre as much as possible.

The reason being first of all as Jodie mentioned in the podcast. It really has got no benefit whatsoever. Fibre is like eating plastic in a way it goes in one end and goes out the other. There’s no real nutrients from it, except that it does aid digestion.

But there is absolutely no need to take in a large amount of fibre before the event. It should be reduced significantly. In the case of James and Jodie they reduce it totally. For them it’s their professions and they need to make sure they get ultimately to race day in tip top condition to be able to perform.

I have worked with some athletes that are very, very sensitive to fibre. Even to the extent that certain vegetables cannot be consumed within 24 to 48 hours of an event. Because one in particular during running has a severe stomach burn or a severe ache from fibre consumed within a 48 hour period before exercise.

So it really depends on the person. Again practice during training what you gonna do during racing. See what works for you. If you not sure about the fibre aspect definitely try reducing it. Try cutting it see if it does work for you, if it does play a benefit.

If it doesn’t hamper you there’s no issue, but it is something worth looking at. I mentioned also reduction of dairy or if you are lactose intolerant which a lot of people actually are. Is don’t take the chance that you consume an excessive amount of dairy before the event. Then it impacts your digestive system significantly. Then on race day again you’ve got a lot of discomfort and not able to get through in a comfortable form.

I think you need to look at all these aspects. When we eat food it sends messages to us either our bodies will like it or our bodies won’t like it. We need to listen to the messages. When our bodies don’t like it listen to that message, eliminate it. If the body likes it keep it and it’s as simple as that.

Come visit 32Gi at Comrades Expo

DK: Now where we looked a couple of weeks ago at pre-race and race day if you wanna see or listen to that podcast I will put that link up into the show notes. To go see what to do when it does come to day before very critical morning of and of course race day.

I’ll be down at Comrades Marathon myself, doing digital radio. Mark I know you attend a lot of the expos as well. Will you be on the 32Gi stand, can people come and ask questions at the build up at the expo?

MW: I’ll definitely be there, I’m at Comrades. I will also be on route feeding the guys on the day. I am there to ask questions if you do need me. I’m often running around though. But you will generally find me at the 32Gi stand at Comrades.

DK: Won’t be hard to miss, always a fantastic stand. As it was at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon. So we hope to see you down there at Comrades Marathon. Very exciting if you are running specifically. Thanks for joining us on this edition of 32Gi Sports Nutrition.

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