It’s finally here. It’s race week, it’s time for you to put your fitness to the test to figure out, hey, have I got any faster? Am I going to hit that PR? But your question this week is, what the heck do I eat? Well, I’m Jessie Funk and on today’s episode of Runner’s High, we’re going to talk about the food you should be eating during your taper week.
This is the question that comes to mind for a lot of runners. You put all this preparation in all this time, all this effort, and here it is, that race you’ve been waiting for. Maybe it’s a B race, but most likely it’s you’re A race, that thing that you’ve been training all year for. And you don’t want to screw it up by eating the wrong thing, right? Well, I’m going to give you really the secret. You know, what’s the secret to eating properly for race week? Do you need to carbo-load like crazy? No, you don’t need to carbo-load little like crazy. Just eat normally.
Eat what you normally eat. That’s what you’ve been eating during training, right? You don’t need to worry about gaining weight, you don’t need to worry about any of that kind of stuff during taper week. One week of reduced training volume, but eating normally is not going to make you gain weight and get slow. So, you don’t need to worry about that.
What it will do, however, is feed your body, the nutrients it needs to recover for that optimal peak. See, what happens during taper is that you’re giving your body the chance to recover. As we’re training, we slowly break down our muscles in various ways by all these different training loads. And then they recover, get a little bit better, we do it again.
But during taper, we’re trying to get them to the point where they’re at 100%. And we can perform better than we’ve ever performed before. If we’re going to allow our bodies to do this, they need food to do it. So, don’t eat differently. Eat your normal amount of protein, eat all these kind of things. The one exception is that a few days before the race, not the night before. This is a big mistake in high school, although we had lots of fun with pasta parties. They’re really not necessary the night before, a few days, so two, three days, you can eat more carbs. Because you want to make sure that your glycogen stores are topped off.
Now, again, you don’t want to eat things that are unusual. But I had a routine for a while, a little bit out of superstition of having ice cream a couple nights before. I also ate noodles and company, if you have one of those near you, I always got the Penny Rosa two days before a race. Just my habit.
The ice cream comes from college when I ate a half gallon ice cream the day before I broke 16 the first time in the 5K. Total coincidence, I think. Well, maybe not total coincidence, but something there. And that just became a weird superstition. Was that the best strategy for me? Probably not. It’s that weird little thing our brains like to do.
But what I’ve learned past that point, past the superstition is that you don’t have to eat differently. If you’re eating well, all of the time, you don’t need to change. And if you’re eating terribly all the time, and you’re trying to change all of a sudden, your body may not be suited to change to whatever you’re eating to, because our microbiome is set up in such a way to digest certain things. And it takes time for that to adjust.
Now, if you want to know more about running and the microbiome, then there are two episodes that you might be interested in the Smart Athlete Podcast, the other show that I do with Dr. Greg Rosicky and Dr. Matt Lay. They both study runners, ultra runners and how it changes the gut microbiome and how that affects food. So, that may be of particular interest to you. I will link to those here at the end of this video.
But the entire point here is don’t change anything. Eat a few more carbs. If you want to have some cake, go ahead and do it. But, the night before is really the only thing you want to be careful of, don’t eat too much fat any kind of things that upset your stomach. Save your treat for afterwards, for after the race. If you watch any of the early episodes, season one of the Amart Athlete podcast which Dr. Matt and Dr. Gregg are both a part of, I asked everybody about recovery foods and almost everyone goes to a treat after a race. Because you’ve earned it, right? You want a little time off.
So, save that treat for afterwards and eat your normal week. Eat normal food, don’t worry about gaining weight, any of that kind of stuff. The taper will take care of itself if you feed your body. So, if you want to see more episodes like this, if you want to see the episodes of the Smart Athlete Podcast, that should be coming up on the screen shortly. Be sure to hit subscribe so you can catch all of that, all the info for me here on this channel. I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.