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Is your nutrition and hydration race ready?

Feb 07, 2024

Setting your race dates is just the beginning. As a distance runner, you know the discipline it takes to hit each training milestone. But, have you given the same meticulous attention to your nutrition and hydration plan? It’s not the final sprint but the long, sustained effort that makes a race successful. Likewise, nutrition and hydration shouldn’t be a last-minute scramble but a fundamental part of your training from the start. Read on to learn what you need to consider to get your nutrition and hydration up to pace!

Nutrition and hydration: Fit for training?

The daily grind of distance running demands more than just hitting the pavement; it requires a calculated approach to what you consume.

  • Energy balance: Energy intake is the cornerstone of your training nutrition. Many runners fall into the trap of underfuelling, either inadvertently, in pursuit of weight loss, being disorganised, chasing enhanced fat burning, poor appetite after training and/or gut issues. This can be detrimental, leading to increased risk of injury, chronic fatigue, mental health issues, and disrupted sleep patterns. Get your calories right so you can power through every training session and have bountiful energy leftover for everything else in life.
  • Nutrient timing: The timing of your nutrient intake plays a critical role in your body's ability to perform and recover. Are you leveraging the anabolic window post-training to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscle tissue? Once you have a handle on the right amount of nutrients, you can learn how to periodise them to achieve benefits for performance and recovery across the week.
  • Recovery nutrition: Identify the critical recovery points in your training plan. Are you fuelling and hydrating adequately when back-to-back training sessions leave little time for recovery? What about your micronutrient intake—are you getting enough iron, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids to support your rigorous training? Recovery is where the gains are made. The right nutrition and hydration will determine how much of those gains you get!
  • Sleep and nutrition: Assess the interplay between your diet and sleep quality. Are you consuming caffeine too late in the day, or perhaps not enough carbohydrates to promote restful sleep? What about screen-time and social media close to bed time? Good sleep is a critical aspect of recovery. There are often simple strategies that can enhance sleep, support speedy recovery and improve performance.

Fuel for the finish: Is your race strategy effective?

Your race nutrition and hydration plan should be as personalised and well-practiced as your running stride.

  • Understanding race demands: You must understand the intensity, duration, and conditions of your race. These factors dictate the best nutrition and hydration strategies for a great result on race day. Relying on a one-size-fits-all approach to fuelling, hydration, and supplements across various races is a strategy that often falls short of delivering your peak performance.
  • Carb loading like a pro: A successful carb-loading strategy maximises muscle glycogen stores without causing discomfort or bloating. Most athletes well under-do the quantity of carbs required. Strategic food and fluid choices are important to ensure you carb load with comfort and have plenty of energy in the tank to power you to the finish line.
  • Practical fuelling: Have a deep understanding of carbohydrates for fuelling, including the right amounts, types and timing. Determine what works for you in terms of taste, convenience, and performance. It's not always the priciest sports nutrition product that will carry you to the finish line. Like any other part of your body, your gut needs to be conditioned to handle the influx of race-day nutrition without adverse effects. Many athletes struggle with gut issues on race day due to inadequate gut training. It takes more than one run practicing your race plan for your gut to be ready to keep up with your stride.
  • Fluid and sodium management: Mastering your hydration strategy is crucial, especially for endurance events. This includes knowing how much you sweat and the corresponding fluid and sodium replacement required to maintain optimal performance. This becomes increasingly important as race duration extends. Get it right and you can be assured of no performance loss from improper hydration and sodium replacement.

Secret weapon: Can supplements boost your run?

Supplements should complement a well-rounded diet, not replace it. The key is knowing which supplements can offer you an edge and how to integrate them safely into your routine.

  • Sports foods: Gels, sports drinks, and protein powders can be excellent tools when used correctly, but they should not overshadow the importance of whole foods that provide a spectrum of nutrients.
  • Ergogenic aids: Educate yourself on ergogenic aids that are scientifically proven to enhance performance. This includes understanding proper dosing, timing, and the evidence supporting their use.
  • Safety and testing: Commit to using only third-party tested supplements to minimise the risk of consuming banned substances. Be aware of the potential side effects and weigh them against the purported benefits.


A well-rounded nutrition and hydration strategy is the unsung hero of race day. By taking the time now to fine-tune your diet and fluid intake, you're setting the stage for peak performance. As you ramp up your training, let your nutrition and hydration strategies evolve alongside. Understand your body's needs, practice your fuelling strategies, and on race day, you'll not only be ready to run, you'll be ready to soar past your goals. Remember, the journey to the finish line begins with what you put on your fork and in your glass. Make every bite and every sip count. Here's to training that's as nutritionally savvy as it is tough—may your energy gels be palatable, your water bottles plentiful, and your personal records shattered.

Yet, the question remains: Have you mapped out your nutritional course from the first day of training to the elation of crossing the finish line?

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