Many people are aware of the necessity of storing carbohydrates in their body before a long run or a marathon. The carbohydrates are broken down and converted into glycogen, a polysaccharide that is stored in the body’s muscles and ready to use as an efficient source of energy so the body does not need to resort to burning fat, a less efficient fuel source. However, despite being aware of carbohydrate intake before the beginning of a big race, runners also need to be aware of various foods that they shouldn’t be eating beforehand: foods that may be detrimental to their performance and their health in general.
Despite a few dairy products being a good source of carbohydrates, runners should be aware of the amount of lactose they are consuming at the same time. Many people have trouble processing lactose in their bodies as they age. And whether or not you are even running in a big race, the inability to process lactose can lead to uncomfortable, sometimes even painful, stomach irritation and nausea.
- High-fiber foods
While they are obviously incorporated into many healthy diets, there are lots of fruits and vegetables that are naturally high in fiber and can be detrimental to a runner’s performance during a race. Avoiding foods such as broccoli, legumes and multigrain breads will help runners avoid stomach irritation similar to consuming lactose, as well as spare them the discomfort of gas building in their gastrointestinal tract.
- Fatty foods
Unlike carbohydrates, grams of fat take a longer time and significantly more energy to break down. Therefore, even during the middle of a race, foods that are high in fat content tend to linger in your stomach and feel like they are literally weighing you down, especially those foods high in saturated fats. It is recommended to wait until after a race is completed to start working on that burger.
- Spicy foods
They may be beneficial to your metabolism. They may be less difficult or unruly to process as lactose, and they may not necessarily sit as a deadweight in your stomach like foods high in fat content, but too much spicy food can still affect your ability to perform. Eat enough spicy food before a race, and you may find yourself competing with a bout of heartburn or indigestion instead of that stretch of pavement.
- White or refined sugars
They tend to be viewed as empty calories anyway. Beyond that, consuming foods rich in white or refined sugars leads runners to run the risk (no pun intended) or hypoglycemia. Ingesting such food causes blood sugar levels to spike quickly and decrease at a rapid pace. This condition can lead to headaches and fatigue that would greatly hamper the performance of any distance runner. It is best to avoid high GI (glycemic index) foods in exchange for lower GI foods such as foods with natural sugars like some fruits (so long as they don’t also fill you up on fiber at the same time).
You should keep all of this in mind if you want to run your practice more efficiently.