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City to Surf Nutrition with Nick Nation

Nick Nation is an accredited practicing dietician, sports dietician, and founder of Nutrition Nation. You can make an appointment for personalised advice with Nick on Tuesdays (from September) at PROmotion, but as a bonus Nick is sharing some top tips for running nutrition ahead of this weekend's Perth City to Surf for Activ.

Race nutrition depends on whether you’re participating in the 4, 12, 21 or 42 km discipline. One thing consistent across all disciplines is the importance of a well fuelled and hydrated body before the event. Then it is about implementing a tried and testedfeeding programme that works for you. 

Carbohydrate loading

Consumption of a high carbohydrate diet 48 – 72 hours preceding the race enables muscles to store more glycogen (energy) and may increase performance. Whether you load or not depends on the distance and intensity of your given race. If you’re undertaking a half or full marathon, or even the 12 km, then carbohydrate loading is a must…assuming the pace will be of high intensity. Carb loading becomes less important as intensity and duration decrease.

Example loading day:


2 cups plain breakfast cereal with low-fat milk

1 piece fresh fruit

2 slices toast with jam

1 glass fruit juice


1 muesli bar

1 piece fresh fruit


2 rolls, 1 with meat and salad, 1 with banana & honey

1 200ml low-fat yoghurt


1 fruit smoothie with 1 cup low-fat milk & 1 scoop low-fat ice-cream


2 cups egg noodles stir fried with vegetables and 1 – 2 tablespoons blackbean sauce

Please note, this is just a general example. Carb requirements vary depending on intensity and duration, but also body weight. A qualified Sports Dietitian can help determine exactly how much carb to consume. 

Pre-event meal

Benefits of your pre-event meal include restoring glycogen (energy) stores after overnight fast, hydration and psychological. 

Examples include: 


1-2 slices toast with jam/honey

Cereal/porridge with low fat milk

Baked beans on toast

Nothing but water for the first 60 minutes

You already have adequate energy stores to fuel continuous running for approximately 60 minutes. Drink water to thirst. 

After the first 60 minutes

Rule of thumb is to consume between 40 - 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour of running. I also recommend spacing feeds (2 per hour). If you consume more than 60 grams per hour you may experience diarrhoea which could derail your race - Whatever you do, don’t Google ‘runners diarrhoea’.

Examples of 60 grams of carbohydrate:

1 litre sports drink

600 ml cola drink (flat)

2 glucose chews

2 sports gels (check the label as they differ from gel to gel)

2 large bananas

95 g jelly beans


Dehydration by as little as 2% can impede your performance. As levels of dehydration rise, performance can be impaired through:

Increased heart rate

Increased perception of effort

Increased fatigue

Impaired cognitive performance (e.g. skill and coordination)

Gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea

Increased risk of heat illness

Hydration needs are highly individualised. Best practice is to work out your sweat rate! Otherwise it’s just guess work. 

By now you’re probably tapering down your training. If you have any more training sessions before the race on Sunday, weigh yourself before and after to see how much fluid you have lost. Then calculate your sweat rate. 


Before training weight - 80 kg 

Fluid consumption during training session – 500 ml

Post training weight – 79.5 kg 


80 kg (pre-training) + 500 g (water consumed during training) – 79.5 kg (post-training) = 1 litre of fluid loss. 

If the training session took you 2 hours, the sweat rate = 500 ml per hour. Aim to replenish at this rate on Sunday.

When it comes to race day hydration, I recommend killing two birds with one stone, combining your fluid and carbohydrate needs by consuming sports drinks. For example, 500 ml of sports drink will also get you 30 g of carb + electrolytes.

Where this is not possible, familiarise yourself with the course water aid and shotz gel stations and work out a hydration and carbohydrate plan. 

Finally, make sure you experiment with any of the above during training to avoid unwanted surprises during the race. Good luck!

Nick Nation

Accredited Practising Dietitian and Sports Dietitian

Nutrition Nation

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