NUTRITION FOR YOUR TAPER
BY KENDRA GLASSMAN PERKEY, MS, RD, CSSD, CNSC
With the racing season in full swing many of you will be in your taper phase of training and may be unsure about how your diet should change during this period. Paying attention to nutrition is important in a 10K race as well as in longer distances like half and full marathons. It is important to continue to eat a healthy, balanced diet during the last 2-3 weeks of your training without making too many changes. This taper phase is the time to rest and recover and build up your carbohydrate stores in the form of glycogen. Building up your muscle's supply of glycogen is accomplished by reducing your physical activity and keeping your diet as stable as possible. Carbohydrates still need to account for over half of your daily intake even though you may be eating less due to the decreased activity. Eating whole grains, low-fat yogurt and a variety of fruits will help meet your carbohydrate needs.
Some athletes may restrict the amount of calories and or carbohydrates too severely in fear of weight gain, but a slight gain of 2-4 pounds is normal during the taper period as this means you are building your glycogen stores. A majority of the gain is water weight as 60% of water is stored with glycogen. These stores will be used to fuel your race; you're topping off your fuel tank!
During taper, eat only what you're accustomed to. Now is not the time to throw in anything unusual or exotic. Don't experiment with foods, drinks, energy gels, bars, carbo-loading formulas, vitamins, minerals, or anything else that you haven't tried before.
Most runners do well with a moderate consumption of pasta, rice, or potatoes 1-2 nights before their key race rather than the traditional big "carb" dinner the night before the race. The day before your big race strive to eat high carbohydrate mini-meals every 3 to 4 hours. This will eliminate feeling too full the day before. Limit high fiber foods as these often contribute to GI distress; something you definitely do not want the day before your race. Make sure you remember to include your nutrition when packing your race bag and that your carbohydrate source for the race is what you have been training with. Remember nothing new; only use what is tried and true.
EXCELLENT CARBOHYDRATE SOURCES:
Whole grain breads, pasta, rice
Beans, lentils and legumes
Starchy Vegetables (peas, corn, potatoes)
Pretzels, animal or graham crackers, low fat crackers and cookies · Low-fat yogurt and milk products
Fresh or fruits canned in light syrup
Oatmeal and other cereals made with whole grains
Granola or protein bars made with whole grains, nuts, fruit
MINI MEAL IDEAS DURING TAPER WEEK
Whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce, lean beef or chicken and frozen veggies topped with low fat cheese
Canned beans, rinsed and then spooned over rice, pasta, or salads
Baked potato topped with cottage cheese, or low fat cheddar cheese and broccoli
Chicken, beef or pork stir-fry, using pre-cut veggies from the market, salad bar, or freezer over rice or noodles
Beef or chicken fajitas with whole grain tortillas, your favorite veggies, and low fat cheese
Deli sandwich with fruit and low-fat yogurt
Oatmeal topped with nuts and dried fruit
Cheese or peanut butter with crackers, fresh fruit
Visualize your success -- and get there by training SMART
Kendra Glassman Perkey, MS, RD, CSSD, CNSC