When it comes to race gear, I default to trusty items I’ve tried out before. I guess the last thing any racer would want to do is to go for mystery supplements right before a race.
In this post, I’ll give you some ideas of items you might want to include in your race day kit. Note that some of these items are specific to my fat-adapted (low carb) lifestyle. Others are what I recommend to friends and clients.
I’ll also list how and when I consume these specific items. For example, there’s stuff I would take in the morning of the race. Since mornings can get tough and early, many of us can’t stomach too much food. There’s also mystery energy drinks that could put you on the toilet as well. To avoid any of these shortcomings it’s good to find your baseline kit.
Without further ado here’s what works for me and why.
The Race Day Kit Supplements
As you can see there are only a few items. To help you understand why I choose these things instead of others I’ll add notes next to each.
* Supplements specific to the fat-adapted diet and lifestyle.
- MCT oil*. Medium Chain Triglycerides – the go-to supplement I add to coffee. It turns coffee into supercharged fuel that increases my focus. The fatty acids also help my muscle, conditioned to fat as fuel, endure longer.
- Beetroot shots. We’ve written about the benefits of beetroot when it comes to endurance. It’s mainly down to nitric oxide which can increase aerobic capacity by up to 16%. I consume one shot 30 mins-1 hour before the race. Some elite athletes reportedly drink another shot of beetroot supplements the night before the race as well.
- Fish Oil. Omega 3s (specifically EPH, DHA fatty acids). Good for brain, rich in antioxidants etc. A no-brainer.
- ZMA. A mighty combo of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. Boosts recovery, relaxes soft tissue and aids sleep. Should be taken the night before race day (30mins before bed on an empty stomach). It will knock you out and might cause some vivid dreams too.
- Vitamin D. An essential daily supplement, especially for those living in UK. Taken daily it can help boost immune system and aids almost every bodily process, including energy release.
- Turmeric pills (Curcumin) with bioperine. Turmeric, is a highly anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative spice, that boosts recovery tenfold. Bioperine (black pepper extract) on the other hand makes curcumin bio-available. If pills aren’t your thing – you can also get the same effect by eating anything spiced with turmeric and black pepper. This should be taken right after the race to boost recovery and ease inflammation.
- Electrolyte tabs. For before and after races. They’ll help you stay hydrated through the race. Water-disolvable tabs usually include magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium. All the salts you tend to sweat out during exercise.
- Chaga mushroom tea. Or pills. Just like turmeric pills, the chaga medicinal mushroom extract is rich in antioxidants and aids recovery. It also stabilizes blood pressure and helps prevent DNA damage. This is big because endurance athletes tend to be main offenders of DNA damage, which leads to a variety chronic diseases. Needless to say, chaga extract should be taken after the race.
- Energy Chews. These are optional for me. I pack them in a pocket as emergency fuel during the race if my glycogen gets too low. Being fat-adapted I’d rather avoid taking any carb-rich supplements, but being safe is always better than sorry. Pro tip from Ben Greenfield, who is also on a low-carb diet: to avoid ‘bonking’ – “don’t go into a glycolytic event glycogen depleted.”
- Creatine. A natural nootropic that increases blood flow to the brain, thereby increasing focus. For endurance athletes, it also helps with ATP formation. In short, it helps supply cells with energy. I take 5g every morning or on race day, a couple of hours before start time. Anything more than 5g might cause stomach distress (read: disaster pants). Furthermore creatine tends to transfer a lot of plasma based fluids into the muscle cells (for energy release), so drink water. For example those 5g (one teaspoon) can be dissolved and mixed into your 500ml drink with electrolytes.
- Finally EAAs aka essential amino acids. These are the holy 9, that your body can’t produce, but which are required to prevent soft tissue breakdown and boost recovery. I take EAA (around 10-15g) before every run to prevent muscle loss and allow for better recovery. Athletes tend to focus on BCAA (branched chain amino acids) since they are much cheaper. These however are only 3 of the amino acids your body needs. You can take whichever, but I advise going for the richer profile EAAs. I take them 30 mins to an hour before the race start.
The Race Day Kit Nutrition
Let’s jump into the food list. These are the items I pack most of the time:
* Supplements specific to the fat-adapted diet and lifestyle.
- Mixed and Macadamia nuts. Superb snack on the go with great nutrient profile and good fats consistency. If in doubt about what to pack – go nuts! I usually consume them on random occasions, and never as a pre-race snack.
- Ready-to-eat rice, bacon and canned fish. As mentioned above, I rely on rice to ensure I don’t run our of glycogen before the race has even started. This breakfast option is specific to the fat-adapted lifestyle, though anyone could benefit from it. It contains half a cup of rice laced with a tablespoon of MCT oil*. On top of that I put half a can of either sardines or mackerel in olive oil, or crispy ready-to-eat bacon. It makes for a mighty cup of breakfast food. I consume this 2-3 hours before the race. Tip: if in doubt wake up earlier than needed in order to pre-digest your race day food. The rice with MCTs* and fish or bacon is easy on the stomach yet provides a tonne of energy you’ll need in the race. Especially if you are a fat adapted athlete.
- Avocados. A great source of fat and fibre for digestion. I usually take at least 1-2 avocados for dinner before the race day. This aids plumbing on the morning of the race, and provides plenty of nutrients.
- Instant coffee. Used the morning of the race to help wake me up. Since coffee is highly diuretic and causes your body to dispose of liquids, I wouldn’t recommend taking it closer to the race start. First thing in the morning should do the trick.
- A low carb bar*. This post-race treat makes for the perfect quick food source to aid recovery and lift morale. My favourite bars are Quest (no affiliation) because they’re easy on sugar alcohol content (causes gastric distress) and have a great consistency (not too chewy, not too brittle).
Note that these items are what I label as essentials. I selected them with our usual race arrangements in mind: a trip for at least a couple of days with a hotel stay. Your race setup may vary, depending on the perceived effort and race distance. These lists specifically were for a back-to-back weekend for Spartan Sprint and Super, but you can use them as a base to adapt.
Also stay tuned for part 2 of race day kit essentials, where I’m going to list my gear and bio-hacking choices to improve performance, sleep, recovery etc.