Race Week Nutrition

I was asked a questions during a recent podcast interview with Molly Hurford for The Consummate Athlete podcast that I felt needed a more thorough answer. So I’m blogging about it.

The question was:

Since athletes tend to eat limited diets during stage races, do you think it is necessary to take supplements during this time?

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Simple question with a not so simple answer. Well the simple answer is MAYBE! But no one wants to hear that, so here we go…

I’m going to start by detailing a bit about my diet during race week. Recently, I was racing at Redlands Classic, a 5 day very intense sage race in California. When I meet new people during a sage race I always feel compelled to tell them, “This isn’t how I normally eat, I swear!”. Why? Well if you know me and follow my eating on social, you know I love a big salad. I love a grain bowl. I love lots of variety, color, fiber, and ‘special’ additions (think powders, nooch, krauts, seeds, etc…). however, when racing, I’m likely eating a bowl of mac n cheese, yes from a box, with some grass fed ground beef or maybe a bowl of brown rice with maple syrup. Quite the dietary departure. My meals become carb heavy, quick to prepare, easy to digest and generally a lot more basic. Along with these basic meals, I rely heavily on sport bars, chocolate milk and juice. Oh, did you think it was going to get better? Wrong.  

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This is the ‘limited diet’ Molly was referring to in her question to me. Eating this way is on purpose and has good reason. Part of that reason is I’m too exhausted to grocery shop and spend lots of time in the kitchen. Most of that reason is my body needs to be constantly fueled and replenished, not struggling to breakdown low calorie vegetable fibers.  This diet lasts a couple days before the first stage and lasts until after the final day, roughly a full week. For this week, my main goal is to meet carbohydrate and overall energy needs. I am not concerned with missing out on some micro, trace and phytonutrients for the short term. Athletes restricting food variety for periods of 2 weeks or less shouldn’t be overly concerned with this; you won’t develop a harmful deficiency during that time. However, I do take a daily multivitamin. It is an easy way to cover the necessities when food options are low. While I’m not worried about deficiency, I do believe that lowered nutrient intake can increase risk of coming down with something and during race week, the body is in high stress (you’re also in close quarters with others) which can lower the immune system. Getting ill is not ideal for anyone during the race season. If your race schedule is heavy and includes back to back extended races, your diet might be too limited for too long. In this case, try incorporating some variety and definitely take a multivitamin that supplies a good range of nutrients. I highly recommend the ultivite (there is a men’s and women’s’ version) from Swisse Wellness. This supplement supplies the typical vitamins, but also goes beyond the norm with added benefits from whole food extracts such as licorice, parsley, ginger and celery.

Hopefully that helps clear up the topic of relying on food vs supplements during races!

If you have questions on eating the best for your racing schedule, reach out for a nutrition consult!