This blog is about food.
This blog is about running.
So what’s more appropriate than what to eat before, during, and after a race?
This information applies mostly to half marathons or marathons; for shorter races the hydration and nutrition needs aren’t as great.
What To Eat Before and After a Race
I’ve generally taken guidance from two books regarding race nutrition, Core Performance Endurance and The Paleo Diet for Athletes, both of which go into far more detail than I do here. I don’t follow The Paleo Diet for Athletes anymore since it espouses so much meat-eating and I’ve gotten so much better results since going vegetarian, but I still like the section on race-day nutrition.
Note: What you eat the week before the race is just as important as what you eat the day of. For more, see my post about what to eat the week before a marathon or half.
- In the days leading up to the race, you’ll be tapering your training, but keep eating the same amount of carbohydrates or slightly more, so that your body will store them. Don’t wait until the night before to carbo-load!
- You’re better off eating lots of carbs at lunch the day before a race than at dinner. I sleep better if I don’t overeat at night anyway, and falling asleep before a big race is always tough.
- In the two to four hours before your race, fill up on protein and simple carbohydrates and drink lots of water or sports drink. The more time until the race, the larger your meal should be. Avoid fiber and fats, since they can cause digestion issues. Don’t try anything new on race day!
- Some good pre-race foods: bread, bagel, cereal, fruit, smoothie, low-fat milk, low-fat cheese, peanut or almond butter (not too much though). The more liquid and easier-to-digest these foods are, the better.
- In the hour before the race, don’t eat very much. Some water, sports drink, or energy gels are good now. I don’t even drink much water at this stage, to avoid having to use the bathroom during the race.
- During a race, you need 30-60 grams of carbs per hour and about a cup of water every fifteen minutes. Avoid dangerous overhydration (hyponatremia) by drinking sports drinks with sodium and/or additional sodium supplementation. One sign of overhydration is bloating, noticable as swelling around rings, watches, socks, etc.
- After a race, get protein and carbs into your body as quickly as possible. Some think a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein is best (chocolate milk has close to this ratio).
- Throughout the day, continue to get high-carb, moderate protein nutrition, drinking lots of water or sports drink to replenish fluids.
For more, read the Five Keys to the Pre-Workout Meal Everyone Should Know. For more general things you can do to make your race a success, check out my 21 tips for race day.
For more posts (and recipes) on natural sports nutrition, check out the Running Fuel page.