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The pub is bustling, the talk is all about the course, the dirt, the features, the favourites to take it home … beer is flowing and the burgers are on the BBQ, with little thought about how that is going to help or hinder the race in the morning.

Are burgers and beer a good pre-race meal? The answer is it depends!

It may seem like all questions around nutrition are answered with it depends, but it really does depend on what your body is used to, what your gut can tolerate, what is available, what time the race starts at and how well you sleep after a couple of beers and a burger.

Burgers are not the worse option, they provide a good serve of protein, are low in fibre and the bun provides carbohydrates. They are often a little on the heavy side in terms of digestion, which could impact on sleep and how you feel the next morning. So your own experience with burgers must be taken into account.

When choosing a burger pre-race, you may want to choose a simple beef burger or cheese burger and skip the works. A baked potato would be a better option to chips as a side, but that may not be an option.

When it comes to beer and sports performance, a light to moderate intake has been found to not hinder performance. It is hard to quantity what light to moderate is as it depends on your normal alcohol intake, for me a beer is plenty, but I am a light weight when it comes to alcohol these days. If alcohol negatively impacts on your sleep, regardless of your normal tolerance, it is not a good idea to have any the night before. If you are consuming beer, make sure you are also having some water to keep your hydration up and keep a bottle of water next to the bed to keep sipping regularly, alcohol does negatively impact on your hydration status.

If eating out, consider some of the following options:

· Beef burger (just the beef patty, no egg or bacon) with a small salad and a baked potato or a small serve of chips

· Grilled chicken burger with a small salad and a baked potato or a small serve of chips

· Tomato based pasta dish like Spaghetti bolognaise (skip it if gluten is not your friend)

· Small steak with cooked veggies and baked potato

· Beef salad (if you are racing XCO, XCM or Enduro you will need to add a side of potato or rice to increase your carbohydrate intake)

· Grilled fish with cooked veggies and baked potato

· Margherita, Hawaiian or Veggie pizza (only if you normally digest pizza well, avoid pepperoni or meat lovers as they are harder to digest for most)

If you can make your own meal the night before a race, you can tailor it to your needs and make sure the meal is exactly what your body needs. This is always my preferred option. Depending on the race, you want to aim to 1/3 to ½ of a plate of carbohydrates like rice, pasta, quinoa or potato. Add a good serve of lean protein such as chicken, fish, lean red meat, tofu or legumes (1/3 of a plate) and some low fibre veggies like cooked peas, carrots, zucchini, broccoli or cauliflower florets to fill up the rest of the plate.

What you really want to avoid is fatty and spicy meals, deep fried foods, creamy sauces, pesto, seafood, high fibre meals or too large a meal that may cause gut symptoms and negatively impact on your sleep. If you are sensitive to any foods such as gluten, lactose, onion, garlic, legumes, make sure you avoid them even if you can tolerate a small amount to prevent any possible gut discomfort. That is where a homemade meal can assure no unintentional consumption of trigger foods.

If fast food/take away is the only option or more your thing:

– McDonald’s: wholemeal snack wrap x 2, classic chicken salad, classic Angus,

– Nando’s: powerfood salad with chicken tenders; superfuel or Mediterranean salad with chicken tenders + side of paella; ¼ chicken + paella or corn on the cob and garden salad; the classic or supremo + corn on the cob or rice + garden salad

– Hungry Jack’s: Tropical or Classic grilled chicken + small chips; Whopper + small chips.

– Subway: chicken strips or steak or smashed falafels sub with lots of salad on rye bread

– GYG: Tacos with chicken; Bowl with chicken or beef; salad with chicken or beef.

– Kebab: chicken kebab with lots of salad.

– Fish and chips: grilled fish and small chips.

– Red rooster: salad roll with chicken; chicken roll + side salad; ¼ chicken + mash or corn or crunchy potato + side salad.

The most important thing the night before a race is that you are relax and comfortable with your choice. If you have a favourite meal that sits well with you, stick with it. If you are out and limited with choices, just choose what normally agrees best with you. The best meal you can have pre-race is one that makes you feel 100% the next day.

Picture of Marzia Bell
Marzia Bell

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