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This week's tip:

Race Foods on the Line

Race foods on the starting line

Race Foods: What to Eat Before, During and After Your Event

By Westy Bell
March 30, 2007

With the marathon season underway and Indoor Nationals right around the corner, it's not surprising that skaters are thinking about ways to enhance their performance — legally, that is!

Nothing can take the place of proper training and conditioning. But diet also plays an important role.

In my last tip, I talked about what to eat to get the most out of your workouts. In this tip, I'll explain what to eat before — and in some cases, during — events to help you perform to the best of your ability.

Basically, the rules are the same:

Eat a substantial meal

At least two hours before competing in a marathon or meet, eat a square meal. Make sure it contains plenty of protein, carbohydrates and fat. ... Yes, fat! ... Fat can boost your endurance by providing your body with a stored reserve of energy.

Weight-conscious skaters may be tempted to stick with salad. But I would recommend against this, even if it includes chicken and a crown of full-fat dressing. Instead, eat something substantial, such as:

  • fettuccine Alfredo with chicken
  • pizza
  • a fish dinner
  • (breakfast) eggs with oatmeal and peanut butter

Round the meal out by adding side dishes of vegetables, fruit, rice, etc. I especially like sweet potatoes with butter. Think nutritious and give yourself a nice balance of protein, carbs and fat. Eating the meal at least two hours before race time will give your body the time it needs to digest it.

The pre-race snack

If you feel hungry just before the start of your race, feel free to eat a low-fat, high-carb snack. Good choices include granola bars, bananas or Fig Newtons. You could also suck down an energy gel or gulp an energy drink. But watch out for the high caffeine levels in some energy drinks. Caffeine can contribute to dehydration. So don't overdo it. And by all means, stay away from fatty snacks before a race. Fat can slow you down because it requires more energy to digest.

Mid-race munchies

If you get hungry during a marathon or other long-distance race, gobble one of those bananas the volunteers are handing out along the course or eat an energy gel or bar you have tucked into your jersey pocket.


Once you've finished your event, it's time to replenish your depleted stores of glycogen and start your muscles on the road to recovery.

Eat a square meal as soon as possible. Make sure it contains ... yes, you guessed it ... plenty of protein, carbs and fat. Include both quick and slower digesting proteins and carbs.

One way to do this is by first drinking a protein shake and then sitting down to a full meal. For your meal try something like this: a main dish of fish or chicken with side dishes of pasta and a sweet potato with butter. (I guess you've guessed by now that I love sweet potatoes!)

A protein shake followed by a square meal will insure you have all the nutrients you need until the next time you eat.

If sitting down to a full meal is not a possibility after your event, at least drink your protein shake and eat some low-fat, high-carb snacks before you hit the road. Then as soon as possible, eat a nutritious, square meal.

At multi-race events, like Indoor Nationals, base your eating on your race schedule. If you have several hours between races, take advantage of the opportunity to eat a good meal. Just make sure you finish it at least two hours before race time. If you don't have much time between races, stick to low-fat, high-carb foods.

Individual differences

Some people take longer to metabolize food than others. Some skaters can eat a greasy Big Mac right before a race and do fine. Others would feel as though they had just swallowed a cement truck.

Experiment and find out what works for you. You may be surprised to learn that it's not only banned drugs that are "performance enhancing."


westybell1Westy Bell is an ACE certified personal trainer, speed skater, weightlifter and mom. A native of central Pennsylvania and former Air Force meteorologist, she came late to skating, starting at age 27. But she learned fast and became a national champion in 2002 when she and teammate Jane Carey won the classic (over 30) two woman relay at Indoor Nationals. A resident of Asheville, NC, she skates with the Rolling Warriors and is preparing for her first bodybuilding competition, June 9, in Savannah, GA.

Westy's Myspace page

Related reading:

Skate Tip of the Week Archive.
Beginners Guide to Outdoor Racing.
Beginners Guide to Inline Skating


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