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Top tips on how to eat properly for race day

Top tips on how to eat properly for race day

Mindful Chef have teamed up with Virgin Sport to give you access to the best nutrition and training advice ahead of their major events this year. Whether you’re taking part in the Hackney Half, London 10K or just want to enjoy your runs a bit more we’ve got you covered. In this article we’ve asked

Mindful Chef have teamed up with Virgin Sport to give you access to the best nutrition and training advice ahead of their major events this year. Whether you’re taking part in the Hackney Half, London 10K or just want to enjoy your runs a bit more we’ve got you covered. In this article we’ve asked MC ambassadors Twice The Health to share their top tips on running and nutrition.

Mindful Chef ambassadors Emily and Hannah from Twice The Health, have completed 3 marathons, 1 half Ironman, and more half marathons than they care to count – we thought they’d be the perfect people to ask for their top tips on how to prepare yourself for race day. Here’s what they had to say:

Race nutrition, a subject that scares even the most elite. One bad gel, one funny flapjack and the race can go from your ‘A’  race to ‘Z’ race in seconds. Thankfully, with some practice and prepping this can be soon solved, and the race you’ve been wishing for is back on the cards. 

Training Nutrition

We guess a good place to begin is the training, something often neglected in favour of what you eat whilst running. Your mileage is going to be higher than ever, and your gym training volume will be up there with it. Training for a marathon is no easy feat and it takes hours in the legs and at the gym. This means you’ll be expending a lot of energy, and demanding even more so it’s important we keep this balance game up when looking at the many training weeks that lie ahead.

The hero, when it comes to keeping on top of this, tends to be carbs. Ensuring you eat enough carbohydrates is essential, both in everyday life and around your training. This is to make sure your glycogen stores are always topped up, otherwise, you may find yourself ‘running on empty’. Remember that balancing game we talked about? This is exactly it! 

Good sources: Oats, wholegrain pasta and rice, quinoa, couscous, potato 

How much carbohydrate should I be aiming for? 

Low or moderate intensity training days = 5-7 g/kg of body weight

Moderate to heavy endurance training 7-10g/kg of body weight 

When looking at the ‘balance’ (energy out = food in), you’ll be glad to know the biggest dilemma comes with getting ‘enough’ onboard during the tough training weeks. This is often where fats come into play, as per gram they contain more calories than both protein and carbs. Fats host 9 calories per gram, whereas carbs and protein only play host to 4. This means you can consume almost half the volume of fat and it will still provide you with the same amount of energy as carbohydrates (which is why high-fat foods are often referred to as ‘calorie-dense’). These guys can play a big role when it comes to fuelling the long runs in relation to the same idea of having to take on less to get more, but we’ll come to that later.

Good sources: Full-fat yoghurt, nuts, seeds, nut butter

How much fat should I be aiming for? 

20-35% of total calorie intake 

Finally, protein. This plays a huge role in the training weeks as it’s the main macro behind recovery. Especially if this is your first marathon, training can take its toll. When we run we cause microscopic damage to our muscle fibres. These tiny tears need to be repaired to avoid injury and to become faster and stronger. If you are not consuming enough protein these repairs cannot be made. This could result in you being at an increased risk of injury and possibly permanent damage on your body, so it’s essential you’re giving it the right tools to recover after the long runs. 

Good sources: Meat, tofu, lentils, yoghurt, nuts

How much protein should I be aiming for? 

0.8-2g per kg of body weight

Mindful Chef’s meals are high in protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Perfect to help you recover during your training runs

In-Run Nutrition

This can often be the trickiest,  if you’ve ever run long distance you’ll know our tummies aren’t always prioritising digestion during the run, which can make taking on food tricky. Whilst we wish we could give you the magic formula, the only trick with this is practice. We’re talking about testing your foods in the run-up so that when it comes to race day you know what works and you can stick to it.

Whilst some people opt for gels, for us, it’s always been a case of sticking to real foods. We find they sit a little better with us, and thanks to years of practice have become pretty good at digesting them too. When we say ‘real food’ we mean things like Pics peanut butter sachets, Nairns Oatcakes and Chiacharge (or a basic flapjack). We also use Clif Bloks (Margarita flavour for the win!) and Lucozade jelly beans, but that’s about as close to the classic gel as we get. We find these two are great for the final few miles when you struggle to face anything, or for the mid-race pick me up when things start to get tough!

Post-run Nutrition

If you are in the position to have a proper meal, we’d suggest a quality serving of meat, or if plant-based beans, lentils or tofu. You can serve this with a whole grain carbohydrate such as rice or pasta, or other grains such as couscous or quinoa, or potatoes. This is where the carbohydrates come in.

Carbohydrates help to replenish your glycogen stores in your muscles and liver. It is essential to replenish your glycogen stores as they act like a battery for your body. When you exercise your body utilises the carbohydrate in your blood (glucose). Once that is used up it converts the glycogen (stored glucose) back into glucose so it can travel in the bloodstream and be used by the working muscles. However, if your stores are empty then you will simply fatigue.

Finally, fats are welcome too. You want to go for unsaturated fats here, such as your omegas which include fish, nuts and seeds. Fats on the whole can help to ‘cushion’ the organs, which we all need when running as let’s just say it’s not the smoothest movement. On top of this, you need it in your system to help transport hormones and certain vitamins around the body. Saturated fat is not as bad as once thought, but we still tend to try and prioritise your intake coming from unsaturated. 

Mindful Chef have a whole host of recipes that cater for a delicious, well-balanced post-run meal

Often nutrition around running is overcomplicated, but there’s no real need. Unless you’re trying to break Olympic records, or a run a sub 2.45 marathon the what you eat and when can be kept simple, something similar to the above. The main magic comes in finding what works for you. In short, our takeaways would be:

  • Try and stick to real foods where you can. They’re often a little kinder to the gut!
  • Practice your fuel, pre, during and post. Trust us when we say this is well worth doing. You want your stomach on side when you’re running. 
  • Know that more often than not, more is more. Running is an extremely high-calorie burning exercise, and to keep running it’s incredibly important you stay topped up with good food. 
  • Order yourself some Mindful Chef, perfect for when the miles run late and you need to whip something nutritious and delicious up after hours.

We hope this has provided some light into running nutrition. 
TTH x

Bonus info:

As your running distance increases so do the demands on every bit of your body so it’s important we take into account micronutrients too. Some things we suggest you consider keeping on top of:

Zinc: Linked to aiding muscle recovery and boosting immune function. 

Calcium: Famous for helping to keep your bones strong and healthy, which is essential when it comes to high impact exercise such as running.

Vitamin D: Aids the absorption of calcium and so goes hand in hand with keeping your bones healthy.

The ‘salts’: Otherwise known as electrolytes, most commonly known as Sodium, Chloride, Potassium, and Magnesium. These are the most prominent lost when we sweat, and so it’s incredibly important we replace them when we do. This can be done via electrolyte tablets. Our favourites are Phizz!



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Susan E. Lopez
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