How and what should I eat to prepare for a trail race?

19 July, 2013 | Written by Recuperat-ion Recuperat-ion
If you
plan to participate in a trail running competition, you will need to spend
several weeks, or even several months, preparing for the race. The final days
before the event should be spent resting. This brief “break” gives
your body time to recover and prepare to face the challenge at its full
Article by David Padaré
In the last
15 days before the race, you will need to limit your sugar, fat, alcohol and
salt intake
forming healthy habits from the very first week of training. Gradually cut back
on simple sugars, sugary foods (preserves, soft drinks and sugary beverages,
sweets, cakes and pastries, sugared dairy products, etc.) to regulate insulin
secretion. Also cut back on fats, products with high fat content (fats, sauces,
industrial pastries, etc.) and alcohol to optimise your body fat percentage.
Cook your food using healthier methods: steaming, stewing in broth,
double-boiling, baking/roasting or en
. In short: reduce your salt intake to improve the balance of your
intra- and extracellular fluids. Start taking a probiotic supplement (for
example, Ergyphilus Plus by Nutergia Laboratories, Bio-Flora by Pharma Nord
Laboratories, or simply an Actimel[u1]  every
day) to restore intestinal flora (especially after a bout of gastroenteritis).
This is important because your gut flora, which is responsible for absorbing
nutrients, will be under tremendous strain and duress on the day of the race.
If you suffer from acid reflux or heartburn, make sure that you have an antacid
product (such as Ergyprotect by Nutergia Laboratories) or coralline (antacid
seaweed) or spirulina powder at hand. You can also cleanse “clogged”
organs with a natural detoxifying supplement (black radish, milk thistle,
etc.). Finally, during the last week make sleep your top priority. Get to bed
by 10 o’clock at the latest and take a short 15-20 minute nap early in the
afternoon, if possible.
that the final week should be spent cleansing your system and building up your
fuel stores
– Monday
through Wednesday: A Light
Eating habits will remain normal until after
lunch on Wednesday.
This short period is a good
time to start eliminating toxins from your system. Plan to reduce your intake
of meat, especially the richest types (fatty cuts, sausages, etc.), and
prepared sauces. Have light meals: moderate your consumption of proteins and starches.
Make fresh, natural products the cornerstone of your diet: fruit, vegetables,
dairy products, etc. Choose a lacto-ovo-vegetarian menu for your evening meals:
steamed vegetables, hard- or soft-boiled eggs, egg-based dishes (savoury
custard, crustless quiche, etc.) or soya bean products (tofu, etc.), dairy
products, cheese, fruit, etc. One small portion of starchy foods per day will
suffice: whole grains, pulses, whole-wheat bread, etc. By now you should be in
the habit of avoiding any foods that combine rapidly-digesting sugars and
saturated fats, which are particularly harmful as they clog the system and
wreak havoc on your metabolism (leading to low blood sugar and other problems).
Drink lots of fluids throughout the week. Hydrate your body with a sports drink like Recuperat-ion Hydrasport. 
Cédric Masip with Recuperat-ion Hydrasport in Ultra Africa Race 2012

Wednesday evening: “High-carb”
pre-race dinner (carbohydrate loading begins)
Wednesday dinner is the most important meal of
the week, the beginning of the high-carb phase.
practice, the lower your muscles’ energy stores, the more effective this phase
will be. You should therefore try to work up a large appetite before dinner
(for example, plan a flexible 2-3 hour mountain bike ride in the afternoon, and
take along a large jug of still water). By dinnertime, the storage
“compartments” will be wide open and muscles will be primed for
“loading”, so your Wednesday evening meal should be slightly
protein-rich and loaded with high GI (glycogen index) foods. This is your one
chance to binge on starchy foods (pasta, rice, semolina, bulgur, wheat, etc.)
and bread (white bread or even bread made from T65 flour) until the eve of
the race itself.
Don’t make an effort to ingest large amounts of vegetables
or whole foods, because with only 3 days left you need to focus on purifying
your digestive system to prepare for D-Day (eliminating fibre, waste, etc.).
following menu will provide you with all the protein you need: start with
chunks of tuna and crab sprinkled over a salad, followed by a sizeable portion
of chicken breast for the main course, and have some cheese (firm cooked cheeses
like Emmental, Gruyère, Comté, Beaufort, Cantal or Edam), yoghurt, a homemade
sweet or a glass of milk after your meal or just before bed. Treat yourself to
a fruit dessert (a strawberry or apple tart, for example) to top off your
carbohydrate and fat intake.
out your breakfast or snack with puffed grains (such as wheat, corn or rice
cakes) or dry biscuits (BN snacks, butter biscuits, etc.), spice bread, etc. Keep
your fluid intake high, drinking at least 1.5 litres per day (preferably “laxative”
water like Hépar, Contrex or Courmayeur until day D-1 to compensate for the
lack of fibre, which can cause constipation). Remember, with every gram of
carbohydrate stored in your muscles, you store an extra 3 grams of water!
Building up the stores of glycogen in your muscles (500-600 g) results in an
automatic weight gain of around 2-2.5 kg (75% of which is water) every 36 hours
from your lowest recorded weight on Wednesday (make sure to weigh
high-carb = rich in starchy foods (pasta, semolina, rice, bread, etc.). A
high-carb diet means ingesting 10 g of carbohydrates/kg of body weight/ day
(remember: 100 g of cooked rice = 20 g of carbohydrates, 100 g of bread = 50 g
of carbs, 40 g of maltodextrin = 38 g of carbs)

Thursday and Friday: Winding down the
“high-carb” phase
Carbo-loading is gradually reduced until
this phase concludes at midday on Friday.
your energy reserves have reached an optimum level, your nutritional intake
should become regular. Continuing to load up on carbs after this point is
useless, because when your muscles have absorbed all the glycogen they can, the
“compartments” close and the excess is diverted to less desirable
storage areas, like fat reserves (up to 150 g of additional fat per day).
During the final 24-36 hours, it is wiser to go easy on your digestive system,
which will be pushed to the limit during the race. Nevertheless, between main
meals on the day before the race you can always supplement your carbohydrate
intake with what are commonly known as “carbo-loading drinks”
(maltodextrin, Palatinose or isomaltulose, Vitargo, etc.) or simply your
favourite low-concentration hypotonique drink (Recuperat-ion Hydrasport), which has
the added benefit of topping up (but not substituting) your regular
intake of fluids and minerals. In these final hours it is particularly
important to make sure that everything you eat is fresh, which may pose a
challenge as in most cases you will have left home by this time. Exercise
caution or simply avoid eating foods whose freshness cannot be guaranteed: eggs
and products containing eggs, poultry, ham, chopped food, seafood,
unpasteurised milk and products that contain it, etc. Practice good hygiene to
avoid bacterial contamination (wash your hands, use clean utensils, make sure
meat is well done, etc.). At home, carefully wash all fruit, vegetables,
eggshells and similar surfaces before eating, etc. Wash the spouts of new
flasks and gel tubes in soapy water or water sterilised with bleach.
The last 48
hours: final parameters
– From
Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon: Eat
light meals!
Although your carbohydrate levels will
during the final 24-26 hours, it is important to eat light,
easily digested foods.
You need to focus on the race
ahead, and on your diet. Following this line of reasoning to its extreme,
during the last 24-36 hours your diet should already be in pseudo-race mode.
Food needs to move through your system quickly, so you should avoid any foods
that you won’t be able to process during the race: whole milk and any fatty
dairy products, except firm, pressed, cooked cheeses (Emmental, Gruyère, Comté,
Beaufort, Cantal, Edam, etc.) or very low-calorie cheeses (Merzer, Ortolan
Light, Leerdammer Light), cooked fats (industrial pastries, fried and breaded
foods, sauces, etc.), fibrous meat (stewed meat dishes like beef Burgundy),
fatty meats (entrecôte, shoulder steak, etc.), oily fish (salmon, mackerel,
etc.), wild game, rough fibre (wheat germ, whole grains, resistant starches)
and cellulose fibre (vegetables, pulses, fruit, etc.). Your net consumption of
fruits and vegetables during these 24-26 hours will therefore be lower than
normal. But don’t worry, because after the race you and your garden produce can
be reconciled (which we certainly recommend!) and there is no risk of
developing a deficiency in such a short time.
Don’t go
overboard on potatoes, and choose varieties with a firm texture (such as
Charlotte potatoes). Finally, avoid spices and foods or dishes that have been
made “tastier” with flavour enhancers (check list of additives:
monosodium glutamate, disodium inosinate, chili powder, etc.) or sweeteners (principally
aspartame, etc.).
If you
find that you simply must have produce on your plate, then limit your choices
to the following foods. Cooked vegetables (excluding all others): carrots,
peeled and de-seeded courgette, red radish, beetroot, fine beans (strings
removed), asparagus tips, cooked salad, squash, artichoke heart, leek (white
part only), endives.
vegetables (excluding all others): lettuce in small portions (only the green
leafy part, not the veins), tomato in small portions (peeled and de-seeded) or
a bit of diced carrot drizzled with oil with a high concentration of omega-3
(canola, Isio, etc.). Fruit (excluding all others): have a small amount of
apple and banana compote (puréed, no chunks) without added sugar, or a cup of
diluted apple and grape juice. Plan to eat a small serving of normal starchy
food for dinner on the night before the race, just to tide you over until
breakfast the next morning (no heavy meals on the eve of the race to reduce the
risk of acid reflux, intestinal fermentation, etc.). Completely abstain from
chewing gum during the final 48 hours (the same goes for sugar-free sweets and
carbonated water and beverages). Keep drinking plenty of fluids (Hépar,
Contrex, Courmayeur, Rozana, etc.), and after race day switch to a non-laxative
water like Vittel, Evian, Volvic, etc. A small “technical” detail to
bear in mind: don’t hesitate to use the bathroom as often as necessary during
the last 24 hours. Cleansing and emptying your digestive system is a priority.
If persistent constipation becomes a problem on the eve of the race, it may be
a good idea to use a glycerin suppository (such as Gifrer). If you choose not
to, make sure to carry a packet of tissues with you during the race in case you
need to make an “emergency stop” (the shock waves that assault the
digestive system when running tend to “loosen up” the intestinal
– Sunday
morning: Pre-race breakfast
Never leave your pre-race meal to chance. Go over
every detail time and again to avoid unpleasant surprises. The last meal before
the race is vital because it will directly affect your body’s ability to
control its blood sugar levels during the event. This will go a long way
towards protecting you from sunstroke. Depending on what time the race starts,
the last meal can be divided into one or more smaller meals between the night
before and one hour prior to start time (in this order: from the
“heaviest” to the most easily digested foods, and from solids to
liquids). One beverage (tea, coffee, Caro, etc.), one grain product (toasted
bread, Melba toast, plain mini-toast) or part of a Gatosport energy cake or
food high in white starch (plain medium-grained semolina, plain rice, plain
pasta), a small portion of fruit gelatin (avoid preserves, especially jams,
figs, strawberries and plums), honey, agave syrup, rice bran oil, one teaspoon
of virgin walnut oil to accompany starches or one of fresh unpasteurised
butter, one non-fat dairy product (plain or soya yoghurt, non-fat cottage
cheese, lactose-free milk, rice or almond milk, etc.), choice of non-fat ham,
egg white (must be fresh and thoroughly cooked, avoid the yolk) or very
low-calorie cheese (Ortolan Light, Merzer, etc.), one cup of heavily diluted
fruit juice (apple or grape) or of thin salted vegetable broth (similar to
chicken noodle soup), a hot drink containing fructose, etc. Limit your
supplements to 3 g of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) and a multivitamin
tablet. After breakfast, avoid ingesting any sugared food or drink until
warm-up time
. If you feel that you need to continue fuelling your body
until warm-up time, there are special sugar-free drinks (called pre-race
drinks) with fructose (20 g/litre) and maltodextrin that will keep your
reserves from being depleted. After warm-up you will be primed and ready
to run. At this point the rules change, and you will switch to in-race
nutrition mode.
Try not
to get too nervous or anxious right before the race. If you learn to control
your anxiety, you will benefit tremendously. It has been proven that nervous
anxiety alters the normal course of blood flow, sending more blood rushing to
the heart and muscles and away from the digestive organs and gut (splanchnic
circulation). As a result, nutrients are “locked out”.
nutrition: watch out for mistakes
Nerea Martínez with Recuperat-ion Hydrasport
regard to fuelling strategies during the race, the most important thing to
remember is this: it is always better to “force” yourself to nibble
constantly, even if you are not hungry (especially in the case of special
energy foods, which are easily digestible and will not leave you feeling heavy)
than to let your digestive system shut down little by little for lack of use
(irrigation). If this happens, your body will slowly, imperceptibly reach the
point where it is incapable of taking nourishment (involuntary vomiting, nausea,
etc.) or absorbing nutrients (diarrhoea caused by gut fermentation, colic, etc.)
when they are needed. Moreover, in order for this strategy to succeed, when the
starting gun sounds your digestive system must be completely emptied of
waste, fibre, undigested food (breakfast “leftovers”), etc. Visit the
bathroom several times before starting the race, if necessary. During the race,
you should generally take one swig (100-150 ml) every 10 or 15 minutes
(alternate between pure water with sodium* and an isotonic or hypotonicdrink like Recuperat-ion). If you are running in cold weather, be careful of
drinking water that is too cold. This may lead to minor stomach pains and
energy loss (because your body must heat the water before absorbing it, which
requires calories). With regard to sugars, in theory your body can assimilate 1
g of carbohydrates (any kind) per kilogram of body weight, but you should limit
yourself to 60-70 g per hour.


foods (gels, fruit-based sweets, special energy bars, undiluted cola) should be
ingested at a frequency of a half or whole piece every 20 or 25 minutes (or
every five kilometres) while running. Force yourself to chew everything
thoroughly to facilitate digestion (food should be “mush” by the time
it reaches the stomach). Only use gels that you have tried during training.
Bear in mind that taking gel (especially “shots”) is like swigging
pure syrup from a bottle while your body is working overtime; if you are
dehydrated, it will certainly do the trick, particularly if its list of
ingredients includes stimulants (guarana, ginseng, yerba mate, etc.). As for
solids (energy bars and such), remember that the longer and harder you run, the
more fat your body will burn. With this “parameter” in mind, it may
be advisable to ingest more “fatty” foods and less sugary foods after
the third or fourth hour of running (almond bars, etc.). During the immediate
recovery period (0-30 minutes after the race) you can continue to sip the same
low-concentration sports drink you had on your run (Recuperat-ion Hydrasport).
* One
tablespoon of sodium bicarbonate/600 ml
NB: If you
suffer from acid reflux, avoid shirts that are too tight or compress your
abdominal area. If you use compression sleeves (Compressport or similar),
remember to wear them at least two or three times before the race so they can
adapt to the shape of your arms.
The 24 hours
after the race: recovery
– The
after-race lunch:
The most important meal for a good
The recovery lunch is the most important meal
for bouncing back to normal as it will be the first after your tremendous
effort. It is similar in composition to the Wednesday evening meal (beginning
of the high-carb phase), except for the fact that it also includes sweet fruits
and vegetables.
Therefore, this meal will be slightly
protein-rich and loaded with high GI foods. In practice, there is no limit on
the amount of starchy foods you can eat (although dressings are
limited), but vegetables should have pride of place (ideally, your plate should
be half vegetables, half starches). Take advantage of the alkaline properties
of potatoes and quinoa. Avoid acidic vegetables like garden cress, sorrel and
spinach. Give preference to virgin oils (olive or walnut oil). As far as
proteins go, don’t be afraid to indulge yourself a bit. Have some seafood,
sausage or cured sliced meat (preferably lean or extra-lean) with your starter,
and double up on dessert (cheese plus one dairy product, but avoid blue cheeses
and fermented dairy products). For the main course, the best choice is white
meat or fish. Finish your repast with a sweet fruit (avoid acidic fruit).
Choose a sparkling beverage rich in bicarbonates (Vichy or similar) to
accompany your meal. Stick to non-laxative water to get your system back on
track. After the race, your intake of simple sugars should progressively
decrease (sugars, sweetened products, soft drinks, etc.). These should be
reserved for the immediate recovery period (the first 60 minutes after crossing
the finish line). For a nutritional supplement, you can take branched-chain
amino acids (BCAA) (3 g).
– Sunday
evening dinner:
don’t skip it!
The first dinner after the race is also very
important for recovery. It will be similar in composition to your Saturday
dinner: light with a small serving of normal starchy food to tide you over
until breakfast the next morning. Vegetables and sweet fruit should comprise
the bulk of this meal.
Metabolic disorders caused by
intense exertion do not show up immediately and may appear 12 to 24 hours
the end of the race (the hormonal “roller coaster”). The
night immediately after the race may be “critical” (hypercatabolic
state with a possible hypoglycaemic reaction) and affect your rate of recovery
for an entire week. Even if you feel slightly “anorexic” (loss of
appetite) after the race, in any case it is wise to have a small serving
of starchy food in the evening as well as some protein (not necessarily meat;
it can be a quiche, a firm cheese or similar food). To make your recovery
strategy truly “ideal”, a protein shake (20-30 g of a combination of
slow-digesting proteins like those found in Protein 95-type shakes) taken just
bedtime will prevent your body from going into a catabolic
state during the night. On the following day, you can begin to resume your
normal eating habits. You can also take a ginseng supplement (a powerful
adaptogen) to prepare for future competitions.



 [u1]In USA “Actimel” is called “DanActive”.
Information about the author:
David Padare is a dietician nutritionist specialized in preferred disciplines such as endurance sports and outdoor running, trail running, cycling, triathlon, swimming….
He accompanies many athletes in their diverse and varied challenges: ultra trail, trails stages, marathons, 100kms, 24h….
Member of the AFDN (French Association of Dietitian Nutritionist) and the nivernais network RESEDIA for the management of DIABETES and OBESITY, he also put his knowledge to the treatment of pathologies such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, food allergies…
Find David in magazines such as Running Coach and Cyclo Coach Cyclosport, Running attitude trail magazine, running 100%feminin,, nutritiondusportif, traileur outdoor…..
Nuteoconsult is the structure founded to bring together expertise from various backgrounds (diet, coach, mind trainer…) for one purpose: to provide simple and clear answers to each level of practice.
Recuperat-ion – Hydration and Nutrition Experts

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