We almost always focus on what one can do to ensure a good race. We discuss the best clothes, the best means of hydration, the best exercises and breathing techniques — and the best foods to eat before running. But there’s an entirely different side. Although some of these topics can help you out, and failing to take the advice will more likely than not make a huge difference, doing the wrong thing can really hurt you.
So what food should you absolutely stay away from before a big race? Here are a few!
- Caffeinated Beverages. It’s an old wives tale that caffeine dehydrates you. It takes an absurd amount of coffee to have a dehydrating effect, and the vast majority of us will never drink enough for it to make a big difference. The real problem is what caffeine does to your digestion. Have you ever noticed that you tend to take a bathroom break with your morning coffee? Caffeine is great for moving the bowels, and you don’t need that in the middle of a race.
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup. This is a concentrated form of sugar that many food and drink vendors use in their products because it’s much cheaper than actual sugar. But more sugar in your diet can result in diabetes and increased fat storage. This can make burning calories tougher, especially when you want a thin, toned body when you run.
- White Bread. Stick to whole wheat products before a big race. You want the added nutrients and fiber, and white bread and similar products are often devoid of what you need. You could experience reduced energy and an increased craving for sugar. In combination, that’s bad.
- Red Meat. Especially when processed like ham or bacon. These not only increase your risk of colo-rectal cancer, but they can increase cholesterol, blood pressure, and the chances of heart disease.
- Whole Milk. You probably don’t need the extra fat. Stick to skim milk unless you’re trying to gain milk. Healthy alternatives include coconut milk or almond milk.
- Alcohol. You already know that booze is bad for you. Over-indulging in alcoholic beverages can dehydrate you, kill brain cells, lead to liver disease, and deplete your energy on race day. A beer or a glass of wine here and there is okay, but avoid overdoing it.
- Diet Sodas. These beverages swap out sugar for artificial sweeteners that result in an array of health problems, including a craving for sugar (duh), kidney ailments, dehydration, and even weight gain (albeit less than with non-diet sodas).