Watch out for the pitfalls before a race!

Disclaimer: This discussion is only for your general interest. It is not to be used for diagnosing or treating a health condition. Please consult with a practitioner who is skilled in Natural or Integrated medicine should you wish to apply any of the information.   

Before cycling from Cape to CairoCredit: Sue Visser


Good preparation is the secret to a perfect finish – here are the keys:

You can improve your health before you begin any race or marathon event. Best of all, you can recover easily and win at every level. Even if you are not a cyclist or a runner these valuable keys are worth considering.

The better you understand why things go wrong on the big day, the easier it is to prevent these mishaps: cramps, diarrhoea, dehydration and burn out or collapsing along the way. Colds and flu the next day are very common and some people get cancer in the long-term. Why? Because they take off in good faith, trusting only in commercial claims or misleading dietary advice. Rather do your own homework. Make sure that the choices you make suit you as an individual, regardless of media claptrap. Prevention is better than cure – in the long run.

Learn how to don the mind-set of a winner and boost your energy and endurance without depending on banned substances, funky diets and geeky gadgets.

Carbo-loading versus Paleo, Atkins/Banting or Blood Type?

Do what suits YOU best the night before

Have a tasty and nourishing meal that can deliver the required supply of nutrients as and when they are needed. You choose the meal; you run the race. Our digestive systems are not created equal. What works for one will definitely not work for all of us. Overloading carbohydrates can interfere with testosterone. It breaks down into a pro-cancerous form of oestrogen or turns into fat around the waistline. It’s your choice.

Experiment with your evening meal and see how you feel the next morning. How well do you tolerate a heavy carbo loading session? Some people are wheat or gluten intolerant and may suffer from post nasal drip, rashes or a constant urge to urinate. On the other hand you may not be able to digest the Paleo-based meals that are rich in fats and proteins. We have individual constitutions. Get to know yours and don’t force your advice on other people. Blood type theory explains why not all people or diets are created equal. Here are suggestions for your evening meal before the race.

Blood type A: If you are a blood type A-secretor then you are best able to tolerate wheat but cut out the beef and potatoes as they create a big energy drag the following day. Exclusively high protein diets are not easy for you to digest and the fatty burden can be very bad for your heart. Cereals serve you well, especially those rich in proteins such as chia, quinoa and amaranth.

Blood type O: Meat, especially beef is your power food. But not a grain of wheat! Have a big plate of hearty beef and vegetable soup that includes onions, broccoli, carrots, herbs, butternut and pulses such as peas and haricot beans. The lady of the house can make this in bulk and freeze up portions of it for a daily boost. At all costs avoid junk foods for a few weeks before the grand race.

Blood type B: You are the dairy buffs! Go for lamb, beef plus milk and cheese-based products. But avoid any chicken, rye or wheat as they do not agree with you. They provoke antigens and burden the immune system and cause mucous. Drink a lot of Amasi (fermented milk) mixed with molasses and probiotics to tune up the gut where 80% of the immune system resides.

Blood type AB meals: Only 2% of us stem from this blood type and it is difficult to determine how much of each are represented in your genes. It is best to find out if you can tolerate wheat, lamb, beef, milk or chicken first. They are very prone to obesity and immune-based issues when they consume food not individually suited to them.

Test drive the breakfast routines

Try a different breakfast every morning. One day eat only fruit – all morning. Apples are best but chew them well. Also try different types of cereals for breakfast. How do you feel two hours later? If you suffer from asthma, post nasal drip and chronic fatigue then go gluten-free for a while and see if there is any improvement. You exclude all wheat, rye, oats and barley. If time allows then feast on a high protein breakfast with a choice of eggs, tuna, salmon, sausages or cheese. Does that give you go? A combination of blood and saliva antigen tests will determine if you are sensitive to certain foods. The Budwig protocol is excellent for improving your energy supply, especially at a cellular level and helps to prevent as well as control certain types of cancer.  The recipe for the Budwig smoothie is worth trying out. a few bottles for the road will give you the leading edge in this respect. Common trouble makers are wheat, dairy and soya. On the day, early risers can sip down high protein power shakes. But it is up to you and what you find works best.

Supplement well in advance and top up on race day with what is best for YOU

Herbal adaptogens such as ginseng, rhodolia, schizandra, etc. help to support your adrenals. You will benefit from extra doses of trace elements, enzymes, amino acids, vitamins and minerals and especially a lot more vitamin C during the day. If you take Tribulus Terrestris, a herb that is used as a traditional testosterone booster, check your levels prior to the race. Some people are suspected of doping because of the effect. If you suffer from breathing issues or a tight chest, take along a bottle of Coleus Forskholii tincture. It boosts cyclic AMP, the offshoot of ATP. Many sports supplements are rich in ATP (adenosine triphosphate) because it supplies energy at a cellular level. Support your immune system with extra doses of Olive Leaf and Artemisia before and after the race to help ward off colds and flu or gut infections that seem to take their toll.

Stress reactions are different

Blood type A’s are easily distressed, even if they don’t show it. Their cortisol levels can remain raised for too long because they suffer from pent-up stress. Their immune systems are also weaker. Blood type O is the original Paleo-person and excels at physical challenges that help them to dissipate stress. Blood type B is a pack animal (watch out) and has a strong herding instinct. B’s dissipate stress best by figuring out puzzles and strategies. During the race they need to keep the mind busy with statistics and comparisons. Type AB’s are usually very stubborn and determined. Don’t get in their way!

Power up your snacking routine

Experiment with your stash of food for the journey. Protein and what people call energy foods that are high in simple refined carbohydrates, glucose and sugar affect people in different ways. You need to know what causes those insulin levels to go out of kilter. It is best to combine your natural sugars with fibre, protein and body friendly fats to prevent insulin spikes that can result in hypoglycemia along the way. A good snack like a banana with cheese and some nuts will not cause a drop in blood sugar after half an hour. Neither will a few apples.

Amasi is a cheap South African super food made from fermented milk. Try it as a pick me up with a tot of molasses and a little water. Shake this up in a bottle and sip it when you feel an energy drag. This homemade tonic is rich in protein, vitamins, trace elements, iron and key minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium. We lose a lot of these minerals plus salt (sodium) when the heat is on and we sweat more than usual. Contrary to popular belief, you also need a lot of salty snacks like biltong, potato crisps and nuts.

How to control glucose, fructose, water and electrolytes

Glucose versus fructose

The liver controls an emergency store of sugar to maintain blood sugar levels. There is not an endless supply – only enough for about an hour. Fructose (fruit sugar) is used as a source, not glucose. Fructose does not need insulin to be effective, but if you consume more than your liver requires, it is stored as fat. There is certainly not enough glycogen to last the race, no matter how much you carbo load the night before. We then try to compensate with sugar-laden energy drinks but excessive sugar makes insulin levels increase and you suffer from reactive hypoglycemia. Potassium is the key to releasing glycogen (blood sugar energy) from the liver. No potassium, no glycogen from the liver, so add a pinch of cream of tartar (potassium tartrate) to your water bottle.

Watch out for fructose malabsorption or sensitivity

A lot of people are glucose intolerant or have lost their insulin sensitivity and then consume more fructose instead of glucose. This sugar goes directly to the liver but it does not suit everybody either. People who cannot metabolise fructose need to avoid certain foods that contain more fructose than glucose. When they drink fruit juice the fructose is released and can cause intestinal problems because it is not chewed, digested and prepared. Drinking large quantities of apple, pear, orange, guava, papaya, quince, mango, star fruit or watermelon could cause severe gut problems. So can anything with added agave or high fructose corn syrup.  Other foods to avoid include: dried fruits – apple, currant, date, fig, pear, raisins and sultanas

An average serving of fruit juice contains over 25 grams of fructose. In other words, 10 times more than sensitive people can tolerate. If you are intolerant or have an absorption problem even a few sips can cause rapid bacterial fermentation, altered gastrointestinal motility including biofilms that disrupt gut bacteria. As a consequence you suffer from a deficiency of zinc, folic acid and what you need for a good night’s sleep – tryptophan. You also need more tryptophan to control depression.

Symptoms of fructose sensitivity are similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome:


  • Belly bloating and flatulence (from fermentation in the small and large intestine)
  • Diarrhoea and / or constipation
  • Heartburn from indigestion and sometimes nausea
  • Stomach pain (as a result of muscle spasms, the intensity of which can vary from mild and chronic to acute but erratic)


More suitable fruits for such people are: blackberry, cranberry, raspberry, strawberry, loganberries, kumquat, grapefruit, lemon and lime, ripe banana, passion fruit, pineapple or rhubarb.

It is worth experimenting well in advance by having a smoothie made out of ripe bananas and a few of the above fruits to see it the problem is alleviated. If it persists you may need to investigate other intolerance such as to gluten, eggs or lactose. In some cases it could be related to a blood type intolerance or genetic problem. Not all fruit is digested in the same way because bacteria will colonise differently in the gut. Some blood types can digest meat better than wheat. Some can digest wheat better than fruit. Some can eat no wheat or drink no fruit (fructose)

Watermelon juice high ructoseCredit: Sue VisserThe problem with Gurus and authors of books promoting or condemning various foods is that they imprint them with their personal philosophy and even physiology. Their inspiring protocols work for them and a few, but not all their fans. Some people seem to thrive on fructose, others don’t. If you suddenly begin to bloat and gain weight on a new “super juice or smoothie routine” you will now know why. If you find that chopping down on all carbohydrates works, fine. But if you are riddled with pain and inflammation then maybe bread and fruit were never a problem in the first place. Maybe it was the fructose.

Water and electrolytes

At the end of the Argus race a number of inexperienced cyclists collapse. Not from dehydration as you may presume, but from overhydrating. They can suffer from kidney damage, due to a lack of electrolytes. People get silly about salt and forget that man is made out of salt and water, just like the ocean. Aldosterone is a hormone that balances levels of salt (sodium) to potassium so that we don’t faint, collapse or get so many cramps. We suffer more from low potassium, rather than from high sodium levels.

Liquorice is rich in aldosterone and it is good to suck when the heat is on. Aldosterone regulates the anti-diuretic hormone to conserve water by sustaining the release of urine when we sweat and exhale a lot of hot air (water vapour). Never ignore the thirst impulse because this is an emergency signal. Add a small pinch of natural sea salt or Himalayan salt to your drinking water with a shot of vitamin C or lemon juice and some honey. It is more refreshing and can protect the kidneys. Some people like to add calcium and magnesium supplements for good measure.

Your body makes and controls neurotransmitters, opiates and painkillers

We take patent drugs that actually mimic the actions of neurotransmitters we make out of minerals, enzymes and amino acids. We are familiar with the thrills of dopamine before a race – the signal of anticipating a long-awaited thrill. Off go the bikes and soon the serotonin or feel-good impulse begins to surge through your nervous system. This is confirmation that you are finally in the saddle.

Cortisol kicks in when we feel stressed and try to push harder. Somebody cuts you off and you swear at them. Adrenalin, norepinephrine course through your brain and this makes us more acidic. Rather try to stay relaxed and breathe calmly to induce more serotonin. Chill Brew! As we pedal up a steep slope we begin to flag. Aches and pains tell us we need painkillers, so the body chemicals release opiates (painkillers like morphine) called endorphins to override the pain producing signal. It adds a feeling of bliss we call an endorphin high. The best buzz comes from endocannabinoids - we make them ourselves and they are legal!

Deal with cramps and lactic acid

Trust the body to give you what you need, but the pain coming from a build-up of lactic acid cannot be blissed away. If you have not attended to your bedtime calcium and magnesium supplementation and taken enough salt and electrolytes then cramps will begin to torment you. For a quick rub, massage a pain relieving gel into the muscle to ease the spasm. Apply tried and trusted arnica and MSM before the race if you already have a troublesome spot or two. Take MSM capsules before the race and bring some with you. MSM has natural pain relieving / muscle restoring properties, especially for chronic pain. It enhances the effect of any pain killing drugs you take.

Homeopathic remedies are excellent to take along with you. These small white pills can be used to prevent muscle cramps (MAG PHOS), dehydration (NAT MUR) and injuries. (ARNICA). Even better is the way they can help people with cardiovascular problems before, during and after the marathon event. 

Attend to last minute details and start the count down

Look after your skin

Use a sunscreen that you are familiar with. Some of them can make you feel very hot and greasy, so rather use the gels and sprays. If you suffer from fever blisters on the lips take extra L-lysine supplements as this controls the herpes simplex virus. Some lotions contain lysine and should be used whenever you are exposed to the sun and the wind. Use a natural deodorant cream that is rich in iodine to help protect your groin and underarm areas from chafing. The iodine helps to protect you from breast and testicular cancer.

Control fever blisters before they break out

If you are prone to fever blisters, make sure you take adequate L-lysine and Vitamin C supplements. People who load up on a lot of protein may elevate their arginine levels to the extent they nullify their lysine reserves. Lysine prevents the outbreak of fever blisters because it controls the herpes virus. Watch out for foods rich in arginine like peanuts, turkey and popcorn, for instance. If you are taking arginine in a body building or hormone boosting supplement then compensate with enough Lysine .

Lastly - have a long, relaxing soak in the tub - before and after the race

The best way to prepare for the big race the night before is to soak in a tub of specially prepared mineral water. We can soak up more magnesium, MSM and iodine from a hot tub to good effect.  A pleasant combination is: ½ cup Epsom salts, 1 tablespoon MSM powder and 1 teaspoon of Lugol’s iodine. This will help to replenish your odour fighting iodine reserves in armpits, groin and feet areas and help to kill off bacteria that causes infections like tummy bugs, colds, candidiasis and even moulds associated with breast cancer. The relaxing soak will help you to sleep more peacefully so you can deliver your best. Sleep deprivation is said to sabotage your ability to perform. After the race, have another relaxing mineral soak and you will notice how quickly you recover from the event. 

No for the race

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