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Pre-Race Nutrition & Hydration with Dot McMahan

Posted by Jessica Windell on

6 Tips from Dot McMahan infographic

It’s no secret that marathon prep requires an immense amount of dedication and diligence in order to show up ready-to-rock come race day. When you’re consistently training for races, like Team U.S.A.’s Dot McMahan, nutrition becomes more than a temporary change of habits – it becomes a lifestyle. For those road warriors endeavoring into marathon training for the first time, some simple tweaks to a training routine can help ensure a grade-A performance come race day.

As we gear up to help runners #goforperfect at the upcoming San Francisco Marathon, we asked McMahan — professional marathoner, full-time mom and Perfect Bar athlete — to share her own pre-race tactics that have helped place her amongst the fastest female long distance runners in the world:

1. Make it a Family Affair

“Being a mom and a wife, my personal nutrition regimen has become my family’s nutrition regimen. I’ll admit, I have a sweet tooth – I love cookies, cake and ice cream, so it’s hard to cut those out entirely until about a week before the race. Instead, I get my family involved to hold me accountable, but in a fun way that promotes healthy eating. For example, my daughter and I make sure we have three fruits or veggies a day, before we have a dessert – and she is not afraid to call me out if I try to get my sweets in early!”

2. Be Flexible

“Hope for the best, but expect anything. When it comes to laying out my meals and snack schedule for race weekend, I try to have a plan A, B, C and even D, but still have to be flexible when things don’t go as expected. If my luggage with all of my snacks gets lost at the airport or I’m in a country where the food is different from my normal diet, I do my best to figure it out without letting it affect me mentally and emotionally, which in turn affects me physically. When things do go according to plan, I keep my pre-race meals simple, with a Carob Chip Perfect Bar, half a banana, half a bagel and a coffee or two, about 2 – 3 hours out.”

3. Use Your Weight as a Tool

“Like most women, I fluctuate in my weight regularly. What I don’t do is react negatively to the number on the scale. Instead, I use it as a gauge for how my body is responding to my training. At one point, I was extremely tired and couldn’t figure out why. When I saw that my weight was lower than normal, I adjusted and tried filling my body with more foods that would fuel me to train harder and better. I now know that I cannot get under a certain weight, because I don’t feel my best.”


4. Do Your Pre-Race Research

“Knowing what types of nutrition and hydration will be made available to you, and when, during the race weekend is a tactic that has helped me immensely over the years. If you’ve been training with one hydration formula, your body gets used to it and may react poorly if the fluid stations on the course offer something you’re not familiar with. In a recent race, I knew I wouldn’t be carrying my own water bottle while running, so I called up the race coordinators and found out what the stations would be serving, even down to the flavor, and trained with that leading up to race weekend (about 6 oz. per 5k). If you’re prepared, something like this won’t shake you on the run and hinder your performance.”

5. Play the Field to Find Your Match

“There are thousands of nutrition and hydration choices out there and I have tried tons of them to see what works for me. Don’t stick to a product just because it’s what your team trains with – determine what fuels your body best. For example, I know that the night before a race, rice just doesn’t sit well with me, but pasta and potatoes make me feel energized on race day. I opt for drinking nuun as a form of hydration, because it’s not too sweet or syrupy. I want something that is easy to digest, tastes good, and quenches my thirst, while still giving me the nutrients I need to stay hydrated.”

6. Relish in the Reward

“As stringent of a diet as I try to keep throughout my normal routines, you better believe I’m heading for a hamburger and a beer after I cross that finish line. You give up so much when you’re training that you have to reward yourself — get a quick vice — before you start back in your routine again. Enjoying a good meal with the family and friends that have supported you along the way is the icing on the race-day cake. Oh, and I’ll take the cake, too.”

Get your training into gear and we hope to see you #goforperfect at the upcoming San Francisco Marathon on July 26th. Register here.