Eating for Sprinting
I’ve always been a bit of a science geek since I learned how to read. I would spend hours pouring over books on how the body works. This fascination over how the body works eventually turned into a captivation over “Healthy Eating” for my body to function well and the long term implications on my body for the future. It wasn’t until I began to actually “compete” in Swimming competitions that I actually took my obsession over understanding nutrition to a whole new level. I began to research what foods I could eat to best serve me when I was swimming in events such as the shorter sprints like 50m Free and 50m Breast to longer distances such as the 100m Individual Medley and the 200m Breaststroke. The connection between food and performance is a fact that cannot be ignored. If you don’t eat enough and you don’t eat the right foods, your performance will suffer.
When I joined The Durham Gazelles Track & Field Club and decided that I actually wanted to compete in Track and Field I went into another frenzy of investigation to find out what foods would be optimum for me to perform at my very best. Along with my consistent and focused training regiment I needed to be as disciplined with eating the right foods to fuel me in the short sprints – 100m and 200m. Nutrition for Track and Field differs greatly from nutrition for swimming and also depends greatly on your events. Understanding the “Science” behind the food and how it affects your body for performance is key to getting to the next level.
When it comes to the day before the race or the day of the race, you’ve already banked your training. If you actually put in the effort required at practice and worked on your mechanics and form, then you can feel confident in your abilities. However, on race day, that can only take you so far…. Your body will automatically respond to your training as if it’s on autopilot but your mental state can either take you to the next level or be a huge detriment to your performance on race day. Going in with a confident and positive attitude focused on getting it done can have the greatest impact on how you race.
Lastly, the other tangible influence that you can have on your performance as an Athlete is to prepare your body with the right nutrition. Seeing that not everyone is a science geek like me and does not relish at the thought of the “Krebs Cycle” and how it works, I won’t bore you with the scientific details. However, it’s important to note that eating the right foods the day before and on race day can really have a great effect on how your body will respond. It’s the difference between a huge PB (Personal Best) and maybe not a PB.
For Short Sprinters having the energy for the greatest impact for a 100m race relies almost solely on the readily available energy already stored in your muscles cells (first 10 seconds of intense activity). For a 200m or a 400m race, (maybe even a 800m) you use the same energy system as the 100m race for the first 10 seconds of your race until the readily available energy in your cells is now depleted and your body now switches to another energy system which can provide energy for the next 2 minutes. Both these systems work “Anaerobically” meaning without Oxygen. I’m not saying that you don’t have to breath, because YOU DO, but your body now uses readily available energy that is found in your blood stream and your liver. If you don’t have the energy stores available, you can imagine that your performance will be less than stellar. Any races over the 2-minute mark will now be “Aerobic” meaning with Oxygen to fuel your body. How this all works is way too complicated for this blog but understanding this is also key to understanding what foods you should eat to help you gain that competitive advantage and be ready for your races.
Lastly, I would be remised if I didn’t remind athletes that coming to practice and training already fueled up and ready is also very key to their success. I cannot count the number of times I have approached athletes and inquired about what they ate during the day and right before practice and have been shocked at the number of kids who barely ate. A lot of them are starving and tired already even before the warm up has started. I cannot stress enough the importance that nutrition plays on how you will perform. It’s the difference between just performing and performing with the intensity and drive that will take you to the next level.
– Written by Cathy Barry (Master Sprinter, Personal Trainer & Nutrition Consultant)