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Power for the race with natural food – is that possible?

Quite often I get asked about race food and what and how to eat for best performance. Some athletes don’t like the common sport foods such as gels, bars and sport drink and would like to eat natural food. Then they want to know what to choose and why to choose certain foods.

The fact is that our muscles love carbohydrates, so whatever you want to add to your race food, it should be carbohydrates. Best choice for a race is simple sugars so think simple, also for carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are much easier to digest, hence the fuel is quickly available and your muscles have more energy to use. There is a lot of foods you can choose from: bread, bagels, fruits, cereal bars, cakes, cookies, potatoes. Only remember one thing: LOW IN FAT. Fat slows digestion, so many of the convenient foods you find in a supermarket may taste fine, but for the purpose of fueling in a race they are not the right choice.

If you need ideas, keep reading because I’ll tell you what I did yesterday when I ran the 6 km Silvesterlauf in Linz:

The start in the day was easy and almost a routine because the start was mid afternoon, so there was no need to change a lot for breakfast. All I did was focus on the carbohydrates. My breakfast is usually mainly carbohydrates, so that was easy. I had my morning coffee with some milk, a porridge with fresh fruits and some milk. This time a bigger portion because I needed to add some extra carbs to my breakfast to be ready and filled up in the afternoon. That was it for the morning.

Later then I had another carbohydrate rich snack, 3 cookies and an apple with a small plain yogurt. Lunch was my pre-event meal because I planned it for 3 hours pre-start. It’s the time when others usually have a plate of pasta or rice to get some more carbs. I chose porridge over pasta and rice because porridge is a good choice for some more carbohydrates. Add a tablespoon of honey to your porridge, a banana and enjoy a carbohydrate rich meal. Blood sugar won’t rise as quick as with purely simple sugar, and because I didn’t need the immediate spike in my blood sugar, I was happy with that. And also quite important: I knew the porridge wouldn’t bother me later on my run because I know my digestive system copes very well with that porridge. Do you remember that you should eat only what works for you? This lesson you need to learn if you want to succeed. So, no GI issues, no bloating, no diarrhea and no cramps. This gave me some extra confidence, I was ready for my run.

In the hours leading up to the start, I had another snack – banana and cereal bar about an hour before the start. And I had a double espresso in the last 30 minutes. I hoped it could give me the right kick for a fast race.

So far…no sport food, all natural food and I felt well. After the race, I found a lot of options in the finish area. And I was prepared too. I had my own finish bag! Anyway, besides Krapfen, there was fresh fruit, cakes, bread, tea, sport drink…and I had brought my own chocolate milk. I was set. With banana and bread in combination with my chocolate milk recovery was supported in a perfect way. Even though I had not scheduled another race for today, I wanted to recover fast and in the best way possible because I would feel better today.

That was my race – and race nutrition with only natural foods. Thanks to a good pace I finished 5th and with a happy face even thought I felt the lactate in my legs. Like every successful finisher I received a finisher gingerbread heart.


Today is the day after the race day and I feel great. I recovered well, did a great run this morning and didn’t feel any tiredness in my legs. Go natural. It works 🙂