Speed Secrets: Nutrition for Race Days

By Ross Bentley

January 31, 2017

It wouldn't be early in the year without some discussion about fitness and nutrition. And that's where Simon Hayes and Richard Smedley of Performance Physixx comes in.

Over the past few years, I've spent a lot of time coaching and presenting at HPDE and track day events, either for car clubs or Hooked On Driving. And I've noticed a trend... not only are the elite-level pros whom I coach and I'm around getting fitter, but so are the more casual high performance and club racers. That's a good thing.

Of course, it's important to approach your nutrition the right way, which is what Richard and Simon write about this week. If you check out the Performance Physixx website, you'll see why I say they know what they're talking about. And next week they'll get into the right approach to fitness training.

Enjoy! - Ross

Getting your nutrition right for racing is an important aspect of your preparation. Without it, your driving will, at best, be hit and miss and, at worst, can mean never working at optimum levels. To integrate healthy eating into your pre-race and race day programs, it’s important to analyze your bodily needs, then set your eating plan accordingly.

Pre-race day Requirements and Solutions

Your body needs regular optimal nutritional intake of three main food types the day before racing starts, to get your body to the start line in the correct balance, mood, and disposition. This means trying to achieve the following to work into your pre-race day diet:

Eat small portions of two or three servings of slow-release carbohydrates every 2 ½ hours during the normal day, starting with breakfast, and then to keep your blood sugar levels stable until you sleep. Do not overeat this food type at one sitting and keep recipes simple. Good choices for this would be: Porridge (oatmeal), chickpeas, beans, lentils, brown rice, couscous, quinoa, sweet potato, rye bread, spelt grains, or any fruit containing a stone (like cherries, plums, or peaches). All of these are low on the glycaemic index which feeds sugar into your blood stream slowly for long-term energy. Don’t overeat servings but keep within the range indicated below. Stay completely away from refined sugars and highly processed foods.

Good carbohydrates to eat and their servings amounts would be the following:

• Oatmeal with water - 1 1/2 cups = 3 servings

• Medium-sized piece of fruit = 1 serving

• Bean and chick pea salad - 1/3 of a cup = 1 serving

• Couscous salad - 1/2 cup = 1 serving

• Potato - medium-sized or ½ cup = 1 serving

• Rye bread – ½ slice or 20g = 1 serving

Your body needs protein as well to keep your long-term training program requirements up to date. It will also deal with the following days of racing: it will repair your battered muscle tissue (through vibration and G-forces) and deal with the requirement to anabolize (build/repair muscle) the catabolized (muscle tissue tear) muscle as quickly as possible. To this end, you need to have between 3 to 4 servings of complete protein every 2 1/2 hours. You can only absorb 30 grams of protein per sitting, so don’t overdose on it in a single meal.

Good proteins would be ocean fish like tuna, mackerel, salmon, and sardines, plus nuts and seeds, all of which are high in naturally-occuring Omega-3 oils. Don’t exclude chicken and red meats like pork, beef or lamb, but try to keep the fish and poultry as the mainstay. A protein supplement shake with casein just prior to bed is a good idea as it’s a slow-acting complete protein which helps muscle regeneration. This process happens mostly at night when sleeping, hence the timing of the shake.

Fat Content - Your body needs healthy fat content in your eating, both for energy and fat- based vitamins. Some fats will occur naturally within the meat and fish products. The remainder needs to be healthy, i.e. added fats such as virgin olive oil, avocado slices and nuts such as uncooked raw walnuts, almonds, and peanuts; if you are used to dairy, a cup of milk or yogurt. Avoid fats that are cooked, fats found in candy bars, and low quality food products containing cheap oils. The good fats help with joint health plus aches and pains from past injuries. Omega-3 oils in your diet will help to cope with multiple race days and your overall health - most importantly joint health. We recommend trying to get at least 35g of added fats into your daily intake. Get these through nuts, healthy oils, and seeds as shown above. Another 35g, making 70g in total, will be consumed via meat, poultry, dairy and fish products.

Hydration – Lastly, keep hydrated during this day. You should be hydrating regularly, anyway, but should you find yourself in a hotter climate, monitor your intake. Aim for your pee to be clear and if it’s not, drink more until it is!

Race Day Requirements and Solutions

The requirements for race days are as follows:

Your body needs to start the day balanced in all food types, therefore your breakfast should complement that.

Breakfast - 1½ cups of oatmeal and a medium-sized piece of the recommended fruit mentioned above will give you four carbohydrates, which equals approximately 60 g worth. Two or three boiled, poached or scrambled eggs should replace protein used during the night for muscle tissue repair and to also help anabolize muscle earlier during the forthcoming race day. The last foodstuff to ensure is water. Drink at least 1.5 liters in normal north European/North American climates and double or even triple if in hot climates.

Having a well-balanced breakfast resupplies all food types depleted during the night and helps keep you balanced, both in energy and concentration levels, so you hit the starting grid in the best possible state.

For a typical breakfast, I would recommend 1½ cups of oatmeal with a piece of medium-sized stone fruit or a handful of blueberries mixed in. This equals four carbohydrate servings.

Then, after that, a three-egg omelet or a chicken breast or even a similar sized piece of poached or smoked salmon. This equals three protein servings.

Lastly drink three glasses of water!

Topping Up

Every 2 ½ hours until your race time, I suggest a snack of one or two pieces of fruit and 100 ml of protein shake or an egg or 100 g of sliced chicken or meat of some sort. You need to keep topping up your supplies of each food type to keep balanced. If you need more over time, then do, but don’t overeat and spike your blood sugar levels with refined sugars like chocolate bars!

The Race - You want to stop eating approximately 45 minutes before racing, so your stomach is not overfull and the sugar you need is already in your bloodstream.

Immediate Post-Race - At this point, your blood sugar levels will be much lower, your muscles are catabolizing to a greater or lesser degree and you need to be able to get back on focusing and concentrating on the next race.

Suggested procedure is as follows:

Immediately replace lost calories burned with quick-release carbohydrates such as a couple of ripe bananas, oranges, or a fruit smoothie. Additionally, rehydrate at this time with a small ½ teaspoon of mineral salts/rehydration salts.

Thirty minutes later, have a slow-release salad of any or all of the following: oatmeal, chickpeas, beans, lentils, brown rice, couscous, quinoa, sweet potato, rye bread, spelt grains or any stone fruit (cherries, plums, peaches). A cup of these should give you 45 g of sugar energy that will help until your next race. If you have to wait a long time until your next race, repeat the topping-up procedure.

Because of the muscular effort involved in racing, you need to start repairing muscle tissue as quickly as possible by flushing protein through your system. To this end, during this period, you’ll need to drink at least another protein shake containing 21 grams of complete protein. A liquid shake will go into your system more quickly than meat or fish, which will help you avoid a bloated stomach.

Post Race - Complete topping up until you can get to a proper meal and if racing the next day, repeat the process!

- Simon Hayes & Richard Smedley

Web: performancephysixx.com

Twitter: @sipphysixx