The correct diet to tackle a day of karting on the racetrack

Doctor Riccardo Ceccarelli is the founder of “Formula Medicine” which has been providing medical and fitness assistance since 1989 to a few hundred drivers in various categories of motorsport from karting to F1. As a super-expert he knows how fundamental nutrition is for a driver’s performance during a day on the track.

“Nutrition is for the driver what fuel is for the kart: to put too much fuel ends up weighing the vehicle down while by putting in too little, one risks to not get to the end of the race. But, above all, it is necessary to fuel up with the right gasoline “because a 4T engine cannot possibly work with a gasoline-oil mix…”

THE MOST COMMON MISTAKES?

EAT TOO MUCH OR TOO LITTLE AND EATING TOO CLOSE TO THE TIME ONE GETS BEHIND THE WHEEL


Doctor Riccardo Ceccarelli

1 Let’s face it: nutrition is not first on the list of a kart drivers’ thoughts…Is there some general advice for those who want to “get straight to the point”?

Let us start from a simple consideration: in reality there doesn’t exist a diet for normal days and one for competition days. For example: if I only have one race at four in the afternoon, I eat normally as I do every day. So… the problem becomes what I eat every day. A little different is if I need to manage my time and intense track sessions.

2 What is the correct diet which a driver should always follow, even when not racing?

Pasta or plain rice, seasoned with a drizzle of oil or with a simple tomato sauce, lean meat, grilled and without additional sauces, boiled white fish, fruit and vegetables… These are all simple foods which are always beneficial to one’s health.

3 When one is on the racetrack, where does one start from?

In this case too, we can start with some general advice: Eat like monkeys. I know it sounds strange, but it is truly like that: when they are in their natural habitat [like a kart driver on the track – Editor’s note], monkeys eat as soon as they experience the stimulus of hunger or feel their sugar levels dropping. They take what they find at hand, but do not gorge themselves and leave the rest. Simply said, eat little and often, avoiding fasting for too long and being careful not to eat too close to the time when you have to get behind the wheel.

4 Do kart drivers really follow these rules?

I am convinced that if I were to go to the starting line with an internist and were to perform a gastroscopy to all of the drivers, the majority would have something in their stomach and that is not good, as digestion does a ‘blood confiscation’ to the rest of the body, leaving less of it for the brain and the other organs involved while working harder during the race.

IN FORMULA 1 IT IS SAID THAT 10 KG ARE WORTH 4 TENTHS PER LAP. WHETHER THE 10 KILOS ARE ON THE CAR OR THE DRIVER’S BODY…THEY ARE ALWAYS AN ADDITIONAL 10 KG

5 Is there an ideal time interval of when to have meals?

It depends a lot on the times they need to be on the racetrack. As a general rule, one should have breakfast, a mid-morning snacklunch, an afternoon snack and dinner. What is important, as I have said, it is simple to eat plain foods. One needs to learn two or three basic rules, get an idea of the intake of calories that each food provides and the digestion times, then the rest follows accordingly, by simple common sense and listening to the signals given by one’s own body.

6 Let’s try to get a little more into the details: What is an example of a good breakfast?

A good breakfast requires 2 hours of digestion needed after the meal. If one needs to get on the track at 8-8.30, it is useless to ask a driver to get up at 6.00 to eat. Better to opt for foods that are digestible in an hour: Fruits, low-fat yogurts, energy bars and maltodextrin. An example: around 7.00-7.30 a fruit salad, a low-fat yogurt and then dissolve 100-120 calories of maltodextrin (sugars in its liquid state) in half a liter of water to be sipped slowly. Who is not hungry early in the morning? You can divide breakfast between two test runs: first a little bit of maltodextrin and half of your fruit. Then, around 9.00, the other half of your fruit and a yogurt.

7 What about the mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks?

Both for the mid-morning and the mid-afternoon snack, if one has a break from 1 to 2 hours, we get into what I call a toast area (grilled Italian ham and cheese sandwich). The sandwich is ‘a zone’ food, that is it respects the 40-30-30 proportion (40% from carbohydrates, 30% fats, 30% proteins) which, according to some studies, provides a better psycho-physical receptivity and efficiency for your system. With 2 slices of cheese and 3 slices of ham we reach about 300 calorieswhich are digested within an hour. Therefore, a grilled sandwich eaten around 9.30, already supplies the right number of calories for the 11 o’clock test session. If one is not hungry, half of the grilled sandwich, half a liter of water and maltodextrin will be sufficient. As an alternative, crackers with either parmesan cheese or Philadelphia cream cheese and a little ham will work fine too. If the break is shorter, it’s better to favor fruit, yogurt or a half an energy bar.HOSPITALITY

Some of the car manufacturers’ official teams, for the most important races set up a hospitality tent by the track, where food is prepared for the team drivers, the mechanics and the entire staffread more

8 Lunch?

The deciding factor is time. Drivers who are part of the first categories and who get on the track in the afternoon, cannot allow themselves much more than a ‘grilled sandwich’. Differently, if the break is of 2 and half to 3 hours…all clear! Menu: half a portion of pasta or rice, chicken breast, vegetables dressed with oil, decreasing the portions a little bit if the break is closer to 2 and a half hours than to 3. This meal also respects the 40-30-30 proportions, supplies the needed calories which exceeds 400 calories and is digested within 3 hours. It must be considered that more than 300-400 calories are not necessary because the body, when it is under stress, it uses half of the calories it needs from the ones just eaten and half from the reserves it already has digested.

10 After all, it is not necessary to make one who knows what sacrifices that are needed to eat properly while on the track

I teach my drivers the nutritional values of food according to the time intervals: If one has more than two hours of availability, one can eat this, if one has one hour, he can eat that, and so on. This is sufficient for drivers to get a general idea with some commonsense.
Then, obviously, each person has his own preferences and needs, or he may have some allergies which must absolutely be taken into consideration. Yet, with the right advice and paying proper attention, in time drivers learn how to create their own food setup…exactly like a kart!