“A perfect diet can mean the difference between victory or de- feat,’’ says Ina Garthe, head of sports nutrition for The Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sport.
However, her recipe for a successful menu is neither secret nor revolutionary.
A balanced menu stabilizes blood sugar in your daily life and improves performance when you exercise. This means eating at least four main meals per day, plus snacks. Frequent meals every 3-4 hours, provides you with adequate available energy and prevents fluctuation in blood sugar levels and overeating in the evenings.
Steer clear of foods with lots of fiber and proteins during the final hours before a competition. Experiment during training, but stick to tried and tested routines when competing. On the days just before an endurance based competition, lasting 2-4 hours, make sure your fluid balance is optimal, and that your glycogen stores are filled with carbs. Don’t forget that your everyday food routines are the foundation for peak performance. “A perfect diet on the competition day has minimal value if you’re careless the rest of the year,’’ Garthe says.
During the Race
FOOD / If the event takes more than 90 minutes, you should plan for an intake of carbohydrates during the activIty. Refill your glycogen stores and give your muscles new energy with ripe bananas, raisins, buns or sports bars. For longer competitions, add bread with jam or honey.
DRINK / You should drink during sessions of 30-60 minutes. Don’t wait until you are actually feeling thirsty, because your performance will be negatively influenced by a dehydration of 2-3 percent of body weight, which is the trigger to feel thirsty. You should drink 0.5 - 1 litres of fluids per hour, such as sports drinks with some carbs and electrolytes.
After the Race
The right amount of food after your event ensures recovery and avoids overload and injuries. Your glycogen stores should be refilled as soon as possible, within 30 minutes, mainly by eating carbohydrates. This is especially important if you do more than one session a day. If your appetite is low after a session or a race, try fluid nutrients like smoothies, chocolate milk or fruit juices.
"Try to replace 150 percent of your fluid loss. This means if you lose 1 kilogram of fluids during a session, you should drink 1.5 litres afterwards," Garthe says.