Change is usually a good thing, but changing major lifestyle variables before a major athletic event? Disaster. The days before you throw your heart, soul, and every ounce of strength you have into an obstacle course race are no time to mess with your sneaker brand, much less your training or nutrition (and don’t even think about going on some insanely restrictive fad diet).
“If you start cutting out food groups, it can hinder your performance because you might be lacking in certain nutrients without knowing it,” Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, author of The No-Brainer Nutrition Guide For Every Runner, says.
If you cut 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.
"If you adopt a restrictive plan, like Whole30 or keto, it becomes difficult to figure out how to eat a well-balanced diet that includes adequate fuel and recovery nutrition,” she explains. "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 an obstacle course race. You need two to three months to acclimate to such a meal plan.
How to Safely Fine-Tune Your Performance Meal Plan
If your training meal plan is abysmal (unlikely), cleaning it up by switching to a balanced way of eating like a Mediterranean diet is a good move — just not days before the race.
“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 for energy before a workout, like a piece of fruit or whole grains. 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.