Thursday, October 11

Pre-Race Fueling: What to Eat Before a Race

Fit Girl, Happy Girl
Today's Guest Post is from Hannah at Fit Girl, Happy Girl. Lots of our bootcampers use Ultimate Bootcamp to cross-train for other sports--particularly for running. Ultimate Bootcamp is part of the training plan for our members' races, from 5K's to marathons and triathlons, and while we help make our runners faster and give them more endurance over time, there are day-of factors to take into account when racing. Check out Hannah's take on pre-race fueling, and read her bio here!

After months of training for any race distance, one of the most important things to plan out is how to fuel your body on race day. After putting in the time and dedication necessary for training, the last thing you want to do is ruin it by eating the wrong food the morning of the race. I recently finished training for my very first half marathon and during the week before the half, I was trying to come up with the best pre-race meal.

I asked some friends and sought advice from Runner’s World and and the one major take away from everything was: don’t change anything. I’ve known this all along: the worst time to try something new is on race day, but I have a problem. In my training, I really didn’t have much to eat on long-run days besides a cup of coffee and some water. Even when I did a 14-miler, the only thing I ate beforehand was a pack of Chomps and Gatorade. However, I had fueled before some smaller races before with a slice of whole grain toast, some fruit (usually strawberries or oranges) and some coffee.

This has always been a pretty good pre-race meal to me so I think I’m going to stick to this for the half as well. After further research however, I had questions, like how much time should I leave between breakfast and start time? The answer I found from Runner’s World was at least two to three hours before. Although this meant a very early morning for me (the race started at 8 a.m. but I had to be there at 7 a.m. and it was an hour away), it would allot enough time for digestion so I could start feeling nourished but not full and heavy.

According to the Runner’s World article as well, I should sip water up to a half and hour before the race starts, this way I’ll be hydrated but not over-hydrated and have to stop at a port-a-potty along the course. Since I had basically already decided on doing my toast-fruit-coffee routine, I was not planning on trying anything different but, I was interested in why this has worked for me in the past.

According to an article, a solid pre-race meal should consist of 80 percent carbohydrates. The article said the type of carbs isn’t as important but many runners, like myself, tend to choose more bland foods like a whole grain toast or some runners like oatmeal. Some ideas for pre-race fuel could be:

  • Bagel or toast topped with either peanut butter or a low-fat spread- many people eat this for breakfast routinely so it’s always good to stick to routine come race morning. Also, bagels and toast are chock-full of carbs which are needed for fuel during a race. 
  • Bananas- lots of runners love bananas as an addition to any pre-race meal (personally, I hate bananas so I can’t speak to this very much). They have 30 grams of carbohydrates, low in fat and high in potassium which is lost while sweating during running. 
  • Energy Bar- a lot of runners eat energy bars before a race but this is something you really have to be careful with in terms of not trying anything new. Stick to a bar you know that’s rich in carbohydrates but not too high in fat or protein (save those bars for after the race). 
  • Shakes- there are a lot of runners who like to make a real-replacement shake before a race. I’ve never tried this but there are tons of recipes out there for these kinds of shakes. 
  • Oatmeal- this is another good fuel-boosting carbohydrate option. It’s bland and won’t upset your stomach while racing. 
I would also recommend drinking some kind of caffeine if you’re a frequent morning caffeine-drinker. I have coffee every morning, so I try not to change this on race day but sometimes I’ll opt for caffeinated tea on race day instead of coffee (because I like cream in my coffee and that can be weird). As always, DON’T try anything new on race day. A poorly picked pre-race meal could possibly wipe out all of those months of training and preparation. Stick to what you know, race hard and look forward to that amazing post-race meal!

What is your go-to pre-race breakfast fuel? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section below!

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