The humidity in the South is no joke. If you are an active person who loves the outdoors, the Southern summers can take a toll on your performance.
Last weekend was the first sign that summer is drawing near. It was HOT and HUMID. I felt it during my long run on Saturday morning. I saw it as I watched over 200 athletes compete in a decathlon style fitness event on Sunday. Dehydration and “hitting the wall” was all too real for myself and the other athletes that played outside this past weekend.
If you too are an athlete who loves a good outdoor competition whether by yourself (like me) or with others (like those CrossFit athletes), then you have probably run into these issues yourself. It is easy to focus on your fitness performance in the training program or competition and forget that what you eat and drink plays a huge role in that performance.
Here’s my confession: I didn’t think about a nutrition plan when I trained for my first marathon. You would think that by being a dietitian (and one certified in sports nutrition at that!) I would know that nutrition is a key component of a marathon training plan. Yet, I completely focused on my training runs and the number of miles I was logged each week. I followed my training program perfectly. I was going to dominate this marathon. Plus, I figured I ate pretty healthily most days of the week and drank some water during my runs so I should be fine. And I was fine, for the most part. Until race day.
My main goal was finishing the marathon in a certain time. I had a plan for that goal, but I had no plan for how I was going to fuel my body to get to the finish line. It was 90 degrees the day of the race, which was unusually hot for that time of year. A couple hours before the race, I ate a protein bar. I drank water whenever I felt like it.
You can imagine what happened to me at mile 18. I bonked! Completely! I gutted it out until mile 20 where I found a station that offered sports gel. That gel saved me. I completed the marathon with tears streaming down my face versus hands in the air. In the hours of slow recovery that followed, I promised myself to never let this happen again.
Now, when I am training for an event or participating in any sport, I always have a plan for fueling my body for best performance.
As you prepare for training and competing in outdoor sports, events and races during the hot summer months, be sure to create a plan for fueling your body properly. Below are my top 5 tips on what to eat and drink to perform your best.
*To note: these are general guidelines. If you want a sports-specific, individualized nutrition plan, contact me here for more information.
1. Eat a meal at least 2 hours before and a small snack 30 minutes before your training session or event.
- Components of the meal:
-Around 300 calories for a short event (an hour or so) to 800 calories for a long event (over 2 hours)
-Easily digestible carbohydrates
-Whole wheat or gluten-free toast with almond butter and a banana
-Oatmeal with 1 cup of berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
-1 - 2 handfuls of raw nuts or seeds (almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds), a piece of fruit (grapefruit, apple, pear)
-A fruit smoothie: 1 cup low fat milk, almond milk or Greek yogurt, a banana, a handful of walnuts, 1 T honey, a few ice cubes. Blend and enjoy!
- Hydration Tip:
-Drink 16 ounces of water at this meal
2. Eat a small snack 30 minutes before your training session or event for a quick boost of energy.
- Components of snack:
-Around 100 calories of quick acting carbohydrates (the ones that raise your blood sugar quickly)
-1/2 banana-1/2 granola bar-4 ounces of a sports drink
- Hydration Tip:
-Drink a 4 - 6 ounces of water during this 30 minute window
3. Eat every hour after the first hour of training or the event
- Components of the snack:
-120 - 240 calories-30 - 60 grams of quick carbohydrates
-A handful of pretzels or dried fruit-2 Fig Newton Bars-1 energy gel or sports beans packet-4 ounces of sport drink every 15 minutes
4. Drink fluid every 20 minutes after the first hour of training
- Components of hydration plan:
-Drink 5 - 12 ounces every 20 minutes
-Water-Sports drink-Add Nuun hydration tablets to your water for extra electrolytes (especially important on those humid days when you sweat a lot!)
5. Eat or drink within 30 minutes after your run or event
- Components of this snack/meal:
-100 – 400 calories-A mixture of protein and carbohydrate to ensure muscle repair
-A glass of chocolate milk-A banana and peanut butter-A turkey sandwich-A bean burrito
Don’t let the heat and humidity keep you from participating in your favorite outdoor activities. Follow these tips to not only enjoy the events, but to kick tail in your performance!