Kate Percy’s Nutrition Tips for Prepping for the Perfect Race

Kate Percy founded Go Faster Food 10 years ago on a principle she’s passionate about: Real Food Fuels You Better. Fast forward a decade and she has authored four cook books – Go Faster Food, Go Faster Food for your Active Family, Fuelsmart for Race Day and Go Eat, Go Active (for Virgin Sport). She is also in-house chef for 220 Triathlon Magazine, ‘food guru’ for Athletics Weekly and Great Run and created the ‘Eat Like An Athlete’ healthy eating education programme, which is delivered in schools and sports clubs throughout the UK. Most recently, Kate launched Go Bites delicious natural energy balls. A marathon runner herself, here Kate imparts her advice on getting ready for race day.

What to eat and how to prepare for race day is right up there at the top of the nutrition questions I’m asked about. And before I go on, the one single most important piece of advice? Do not do anything different on the day of the race: stick with the foods, drink and energy support that you have used throughout your training. Race day and the week leading up to it is no time to try anything new – I’ve learned through bitter experience to stick to the status quo (you really don’t want to know!).

During the days running up to any race tapering plays a major factor. Resist the temptation to put in one last run and instead focus your energy on fuelling your body for the challenge ahead. You know your own body so adjust all advice to suit you: how you think you’re going to feel in the days running up to and on the morning of the race as nerves, adrenalin and excitement kicks in.

If you’re like me, you’ll have to force food down the night before and eat small high-energy snacks little and often. Whether you have an appetite of a horse or a bird, make sure you’re fully hydrated. Set your alarm earlier than you need to get out of bed and drink at least 500ml of water. From there on in sip small amounts of liquid allowing enough time for loo stops so that you’re not at the start line with a full bladder.

Homemade Isotonic Drink: 250ml pure unsweetened fruit juice, 250ml water, add a pinch of salt (about 1/5 teaspoon), Mix together, shake well and chill in the fridge

CARBS: Lightening the load

As tempting as it might be, carb-loading is not an excuse to gorge on heavily-laden bowls of pasta all week! When we store carbohydrate (in the form of glycogen) we also store a lot of water weight with it – in fact for every gram of glycogen, we store 3g of water. This means if you load up too much, your muscles will become very heavy, and that’s the last thing you want to feel at the start of the race. What’s more, a certain amount of ‘carb-loading’ will occur naturally as you taper, as you won’t be depleting your existing glycogen stores through running.

If pasta’s your pre-race poison, opt for clean, fresh sauces and avoid high-fat calorific cream-based dishes . Chips, crisps, donuts, buttery croissants, creamy pasta meals, cheesy pizzas, lattes are off the menu. While they do contain carbohydrate, the unwanted fats will be a nuisance to you and could make you feel heavy and bloated – far from your race-fit ideal.

Choosing nutrient-rich, slow-releasing (low to medium GI) carbohydrates, the less refined the better, will keep your blood sugar levels stable and to help sustain energy for longer – oats, basmati rice, pasta with tomato-based sauces, English muffins, wholemeal toast, plenty of fruit and vegetables should be on your shopping list.

Fuel up with my Top 5 pre-race fuel dishes: To short-cut my cook book, here are five of my favourite pre-race recipes. All of them crafted to deliver the right type of energy:

1. Rigatoni with Pancetta, Butternut Squash and Thyme packs a punch for slow-release energy loaded with vitamin C, fibre and heart-healthy omega 3 fats https://www.gofasterfood.com/recipes/rigatoni-with-butternut-squash-pancetta-and-thyme/
2. Pappardelle with courgette, mint and lemon https://www.gofasterfood.com/recipes/pre-race-pappardelle-courgette-ribbons-mint-lemon-ricotta/
3. Apple raisin and cinnamon porridge https://www.gofasterfood.com/recipes/spiced-apple-raisin-cinnamon-porridge/
4. Spaghetti with avocado pesto https://www.gofasterfood.com/recipes/spaghetti-avocado-pesto/
5. North African Sticky Orange Almond Cake https://www.gofasterfood.com/recipes/north-african-sticky-orange-almond-cake/

So five key things to remember …
1. This is not the time to try anything new. Stick to plain, familiar foods that deliver sustained energy: don’t carb overload and avoid creamy high-fat pasta sauces.
2. Drink, drink, drink: do the ‘pee test’: if it’s light-coloured then you’re fully hydrated.
3. Don’t overeat on the morning of the race. Top up the tank about two hours before the off and fuel as you normally would for any training run.
4. If your nerves are inhibiting your appetite opt for your usual energy snack. I have a packet of Go Bites Refuel Apricot & Seed flavour – all three balls to make sure I’m race-ready.
5. Pack your pockets or running belt with your energy of choice – gels, energy bars, fluid. Do it the night before to make sure you have enough for the challenge ahead. Think of refuelling every 30-40 minutes or so and make the most of the water stops along the route
And finally – check the weather forecast. If it’s sunny don’t forget the sun block; and rainy increase protection around chaffing areas!
My FuelSmart for Race Day e-book includes recipes to help you hone your strategy. https://www.gofasterfood.com/buy-go-faster-books/

GOOD LUCK to all of you. It takes courage and determination to get to the start line.


Kate x

Got a question? Feel free to Tweet Kate Percy @GoFasterFood or post a question on Facebook @GoFasterFood.
Kate Percy will be hosting UKRunChat on Sunday 25 March 8-9pm answering all your questions on nutrition and fuelling your training and races.