Is It Bad to Change Your Diet Before a Race?

Is It Bad to Change Your Diet Before a Race?

They say change is a good thing, but change before a major athletic event? Disaster. The days before you throw your heart, soul and every ounce of strength you have into a Spartan are no time to mess with your sneaker brand, much less your training diet. And don’t even think about going keto or paleo or any kind of other o. 

“If you start cutting out food groups, it can hinder your performance because you might be lacking in certain nutrients without knowing it,” says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, author of The No-Brainer Nutrition Guide For Every Runner. Ax foods that you eat on the regular, like carbs or animal protein, and you might deal with lethargy, cravings, and decreased stamina and endurance due to lack of calories and vital vitamins and minerals, just when you need to be at your prime.

Related: 10 Lies Everyone Believes About Dieting

Plus, adopt “a restrictive plan, like Whole30 or keto, and it becomes difficult to figure out how to eat a well-balanced diet that includes adequate fuel and recovery nutrition,” she says. Whole30, for example, doesn’t allow grains, beans or legumes, all of which are healthy carbs that provide fuel for exercise and recovery. 

And if you go on keto right before, you’ll be in “keto flu,” with transition symptoms like headache, nausea, weakness, cravings, and more—clearly not how you want to feel when gearing up for the big day. You need two to three months to acclimate.

Related: 5 Reasons Spartans Eat Whole Foods

How to Safely Fine-tune Your Training Diet For Maximum Performance

If your training diet is abysmal (unlikely), cleaning it up by switching to a balanced way of eating like a Mediterranean diet is a good move. “You’d likely get more nutrients and healthier foods overall, which can boost energy levels and prevent micronutrient deficiencies that might interfere with training, like iron or magnesium deficiencies,” Rizzo says. 

The key is planning what meals you’ll eat — particularly before and after training — rather than focusing on what to cut out. You want simple carbs, like a piece of fruit or whole grains, pre-workout for energy. Recover with carbs and protein, like a smoothie with fruit. Also, make sure you’re taking in enough calories to cover what you’re burning off. If you don’t, you may lose weight unintentionally, which can negatively affect your performance.

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