Eating Before The Race

By Hailee Truelove, Special Kids Lead Speech Language Pathologist and health food enthusiast

What you eat before a race can directly affect how you feel and your performance while you are running.  When deciding what to eat for your pre-race meal, there are a few key things to keep in mind. Understanding the connection between food and how you feel is important.  The food you consume before you run should keep your blood sugar level and prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).  Also, keeping your stomach slightly full will help you absorb gastric juices, provide fuel for your muscles, and keep you mentally alert.  Avoiding gluten and dairy and flooding your body with fruits and vegetables will help you eliminate toxins as well as decrease systemic inflammation in order to keep you healthy and prevent injury. 
Although it is important to eat healthy all the time, here are some Race-Day nutrition tips:

  • Consume adequate carbohydrates the evening before the race to ensure that glycogen levels (the storage form of sugar in the liver and muscles) are not low by morning and race time. Remember balance is key! As Americans we tend to overdo it with carbohydrates. Try plant based carbs, such as fruits and vegetables.

  • Eat a light meal consisting of 65% carbohydrates 15% protein and 20% fat between one to two hours before your race.

  • Drink plenty of water, enough that your urine is clear. Drink extra water the day and night prior to the race to ensure good hydration levels. Drink 16 ounces of water one to two hours prior to the race. Allow time for a restroom stop before the race gun goes off!

A couple of examples of good pre-race meal choices are:

  • A bowl of oatmeal with blueberries/nuts

  • An apple or banana and peanut butter

  • Eggs

  • Gluten free bagel or toast with peanut butter and a piece of fruit.

  • Whole food breakfast bar (eg. Kind bar, Clif bar, homemade granola bar, etc.)

For athletes prone to gastrointestinal distress, a moderate liquid pre-race meal should be considered. An example is a fresh fruit smoothie with non dairy milk, greek yogurt or a whole food protein mix, such as Juice Plus Complete shake mix.

The most important thing to remember is to never try out a new meal, or any routine, on race day.
Always practice your meals and pre-race routines when training for the race.

For more in-depth information and more specific examples, I highly recommend the book, “The Winning Edge:  Fueling and Training the Body for Peak Performance” by Jack A. Medina, M.A.

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