Eat your way to race day

With five weeks to go till the Otter African Trail Run, runners are well into their training routines for the Grail of Trail. Nutrition can be the difference between responding to a strict training routine well and improving performance and training yourself into a state of injury or energy deficiency. It’s also not just about ‘what’ you eat, but also ‘when’ and how you distribute your meals throughout the day.
We worked with a seasoned runner and dietitian to guide us on the best nutrition to complement a training routine that will help you bring your best at the Otter African Trail Run (or just your next mountain run) this October 2022.
What should our daily diet look like in the weeks leading up to race day?
Meal composition: Variety, variety, variety!
Why do we require variety in what we eat? It’s vital that we eat a varied diet that is made up of all food groups. Variety in our diet ensures that we are getting in the nutrients that our bodies need to function at our best. The food groups are whole grains, fruit, veg, lean proteins and dairy. (And let’s not forget about legumes! A nutrient powerhouse!)
Our body’s primary source of fuel is carbohydrates. We need to ensure that we include them in our diet to ensure that we are fueling our bodies for the work it is doing- especially in the context of endurance sports. To train or race well, we need to replenish muscle glycogen stores – this is one of the areas where carbohydrates are stored in our body when we exercise. Our bodies use these glycogen stores for fuel – just like a car would use petrol. If we do not eat enough carbohydrates, these stores do not get filled up again, and we end up with insufficient glycogen in other words; not enough fuel. Just like a car without petrol, this won’t take us very far, and our performance will be affected. With all of this being said, we also need the correct amounts of protein and fats.
Meal and snack distribution
What we eat is just as important as when we eat it. For example, there is little benefit in eating all your protein at supper time but not eating any in the first half of the day. You want to make sure that your nutrient distribution throughout the day makes sense. This is important for a variety of reasons: to ensure that your blood sugar response is balanced, which will leave you more satisfied and prevent highs and lows in terms of energy levels, and of course it will ensure that you meet your individual nutritional needs.
Two top tips:
  1. Make sure that ALL your meals and snacks are balanced. This will ensure that your macronutrient distribution is adequate and that you give your body what it needs throughout the day. This will also help to keep your blood sugar levels balanced so you will be more satisfied and it will help with cravings because you are giving your body what it needs. It becomes more specific with training sessions. Th duration and intensity of a session play a role here in terms of determining how to fuel, but this is specific to each individual.
  2. Always have something to eat before a training session and immediately after. For most people, this looks like breakfast, lunch, and dinner with 2-3 snacks.

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