Nutrition Planning for Race Weekends

Many of you race in sports car events. Thus we’re going to focus on how to plan for those. Relying on what you have available at the track is a no-no, unless you’re with a big team that has hospitality and is set up to prepare what each individual driver needs. So some planning to take or purchasing the foods you need prior to going to the track will be required. See it as an addition to your regular race preparations.

So the first consideration is making life easy for yourself at the track. Take food and supplements that are easy to prepare or pre-prepared. Ensure that you have a microwave and a blender in your trailer/truck. Below are some sample meals that provide significant protein; they can be easily prepared at the track, using a microwave.

SALMON HOBO PACKETS

Fold two 14″×18″ sheets of parchment paper in half. Open them and place 2 cups chopped broccoli, 1/2 sliced fennel bulb, and 1/2 sliced red bell pepper on one side of each sheet; top with a 6 oz salmon fillet. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a bowl. Stir in 2 Tbsp orange juice plus 2 tsp each orange zest and fresh thyme. Spread this over the fish. Fold the paper over the fish and crimp shut. Microwave on high for 4 minutes; add time (in 30-second intervals) until the salmon is cooked. Let the parcels rest for 5 minutes. Open them and sprinkle on 1 tsp black sesame seeds. Serves 2.

Time: 15 minutes

Protein: 39 grams

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CHICKEN PINEAPPLE CURRY

In a large bowl, add 1 peeled and chopped sweet potato, 2 chopped shallots, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 2 Tbsp water, and 1 Tbsp chopped ginger. Cover and cook on high for 5 minutes. Add 1 can (14 oz) coconut milk, 1 Tbsp red curry paste, and 1/2 tsp each salt and cinnamon; puree. In another bowl, cook 1 lb cubed chicken breast on high, covered, for 2 minutes. Drain, add the puree, cover, and heat on high until done (stir once), 6 minutes. Stir in 1 cup frozen peas, 1 cup diced pineapple, 1/3 cup cashews, and the juice of 1/2 lime; heat 30 seconds. Serve with rice and cilantro. Serves 4.

Time: 20 minutes
Protein: 18 grams

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Be aware of your microwave wattage and adjust cooking time accordingly.

Of course, protein needs are not the only consideration and we aim to show a variety of ways an individual driver can meet all of their nutritional requirements. But we will continue to focus on only having access to limited food prep space. Supplements play an important role at the race weekend, principally because they can be consumed quickly and go straight to work.

Carbohydrates function as a source of fuel for both the brain and body. During exercise, carbohydrates stored in the muscles (glycogen) are broken down into glucose (sugar) and delivered to the muscle for energy. The more intense your exercise session, the more your body relies on these carbohydrates for fuel. [Juekendrup, A.E. (2003). Modulation of carbohydrate and fat utilization by diet, exercise and environment. Biochemical Society Transactions, 31(6), 1270-1273].

The work of carbohydrates is two-fold, as we have discussed in previous articles. These can be broken down in to two categories: those that provide energy quickly which we will call “fast-acting” and those that release over time, which we will term “prolonged energy.” Which you use will be dependent on the timing of your race stints. Below is a sample schedule for sports car drivers during the 24 Hours of Daytona that was utilized effectively (thus it works!)

Daytona food plan:

  1. Breakfast: oatmeal sachets/Quaker Oats mix 1-2 packets with cup of water or 2 percent milk (or dairy alternative). This is a prolonged-energy carbohydrate meal which releases energy over a long period of time. I also recommend adding nut butter or nuts to the oatmeal for a satiating boost of healthy fat and fiber. I also suggest mixing protein powder into the oatmeal, as well as mixed berries for antioxidants a(nd to complete the balance).
  2. For protein meals, use turkey burgers or other meat or fish which are easily microwaved (ex: grilled chicken breast). Microwaveable quinoa or Uncle Ben’s Rice packets could provide better options than having to cook these items on the stove. Canned/packets of tuna or salmon might also be a good choice, mixed with salad and lemon juice.
  3. Use bananas, apples, or cherries for quick energy sources, such as after a stint once you have gotten out of the car. These also provide hydration. You can also have banana and nut butter with honey sandwiches or wraps pre-made and cut into pieces for quick and easy grab-n-go. Additional snacks: jerky, trail mix with nuts and dried fruit, power bites (Lara Bar Bites or Navitas Organics).
  4. Use Emergen-C (www.emergenc.com/products). These can be put into the in-car drink, used with water and or hydration drink.
  5. For protein shakes, I would recommend the following:
Blend with fruit and 100% fruit juice (use tart cherry juice for added recovery benefits). I have selected these, based on no gluten, amino acid and sugar content. If you prefer bars, you could also purchase protein bars of similar products above. The protein can also be mixed with oatmeal in the microwave, providing additional protein.
The shakes will be an easier way of getting in a fast meal, if you take a blender. Fruit and Emergen-C sachets can be added.

Planning your meals and easy prep ahead of a race weekend helps to keep you focused on the reasons for watching your food intake (and helps you avoid the dreaded grab-it-on-the-fly track hamburger!). Race weekend nutrition can help or hurt your performance. We know which one you prefer!

In a future article, we’ll address complementary hydration methods to round out your race weekend preparation.

~ Simon Hayes

Photo Credit: Travis Rathbone