Well digested is halfway there

6. September 2018

The principle is simple: when the starting shot rings out for a sports competition of any kind, you should strike out with a stomach that has already done its work. In other words: the last meal before the competition needs to already have been digested by the time the race kicks off. 

This is especially true if the intensity of the upcoming competition is high and you need all the oxygen to maintain your performance. If your stomach starts begging for oxygen, then complaints are inevitable. This is not a problem if you are just going for a one-hour walk. In this case, you can set off right after eating a raclette or tiramisu.

Three hours are ideal

And what exactly should the last meal look like? To begin with, your dietary preparation for the competition should already have involved intensive carbo-loading the day before and before the last meal. Nevertheless, your last meal should once again centre on carbohydrates. Fats and proteins, on the other hand, should be reduced. To ensure that the final meal is fully digested when the shot rings out for the main competition, you need to eat it three to four hours beforehand and no later. The following also applies: eat well but not too much and not too rich.

Hard to digest foods such as vegetables, fruits, cucumbers, or even a hamburger with fries or dishes with heavy sauces are taboo. It is also best if you leave out foods which, in normal everyday life, provide good and important nutrients, such as products with plenty of fibre or wholemeal products.

Fast carbohydrates

Fast carbohydrates, such as pasta or rice, make excellent hot meals. White bread or toast, ideally with honey, are suitable for breakfast. Or also cornflakes with banana and milk. Or muesli with oatmeal.

Absolutely crucial: the last meal should only contain familiar and trusted foods. This is not the right time to experiment. Everyone is different. Some people can eat muesli without any problem, others need to exercise caution when it comes to dairy products. It is therefore advisable – in competitions abroad, for example – to take the most important ingredients with you if you are not exactly sure what the local food will be like.

Another common alternative is to already eat the last meal four hours before the competition. To ensure you have enough carbohydrates or to keep your blood sugar level in the green zone, you can then eat a bar, Biberli (honey and marzipan biscuit), sports drink, ripe banana, or something else rich in carbohydrate energy around one hour before the competition. It is important that you find out during training (at your racing pace) how the different foods affect your performance capability. Your last intake of carbohydrate can also be a gel or sports drink.

By the way: if you have a very sensitive stomach and have done proper carbo-loading beforehand, then you can forgo real food on the day of the competition and prime yourself with moderate amounts of carbohydrate drinks and easily digestible gels instead.