Eat Like A Runner Series Day 4: Race Day Fuel – What to Eat Before and After Your Race
What To Eat Before and After Your Race
Race day is coming and you want to be fueled up to perform your best. What should you eat before and after your race? What foods will help you to perform your best and help your body to recover quickly? These can be such tricky questions because every runner is different. Due to allergies, intolerance to certain foods and some people just digesting certain foods easier it becomes a pretty personal choice. Also, a big part of the equation depends on the distance of the race that you are running. This post will be geared more to half and full marathons. The following tips are based on my personal experiences and hopefully they will help you to determine what to eat before and after your race.
- Don’t Get Creative – Experiment with any foods long before race day. That is one of the reasons that you do your long runs. Test anything out rather than trying it for the first time on race day. In the days leading up to the race I would recommend eating the foods that your body is familiar with. Hopefully you have been eating healthy leading up to the race and I would recommend sticking with that.
- Chew The Fat – Make sure that you are eating your good fats especially the last 2-3 weeks before the race. You need these in storage for later in the race when your carbs have all been used up.
- Don’t Over-Load – You definitely want some extra carbs to help build your glycogen storage but don’t over-do it. Increase your carbohydrates from about 50% of your diet to about 65% of your diet for the 3 days prior to the race. Don’t stuff yourself the night before and eat so many carbs that you feel heavy and bloated the next day.
- Don’t Get Too Regular – Don’t eat a heavy fiber diet for about 48 hours before your race. I would avoid beans, broccoli, bran, etc. Again, stick with what you are used to but you don’t want to be hitting the port-a-potties during your race.
- The Most Important Meal of the (Race) Day – Eat your pre-race meal about 2 hours prior to the race. You should consume mostly carbs but a little bit of protein and fat is also recommended, maybe a bagel with peanut butter and a banana. I also recommend consuming about 12 – 16 ounces of water with your meal and then sipping on some Gatorade slowly about an hour before the race.
- Get Gu-ing – There are so many great products on the market now to help extend your glycogen storage during a race. The list includes sports drinks, gu’s and gels, sport beans, bars, etc. I definitely recommend these products but you need to test them in your training runs and see what gives you the most energy and make sure that they don’t bother your stomach. If your race uses a certain brand of sports drink or gel then try to use that to get your stomach used to it and make sure you don’t have any problems.
- Don’t Drown – Drink early and often but make sure that you don’t drink so much water that it dilutes your electrolytes to the point that you suffer from cramps and other problems (I have suffered from hamstring cramps in almost every one of my full marathons and I think I have finally figured it out. I drink sports drink during the race and almost no water and I take an electrolyte pill every hour. I also take in a Gu packet about every 5 miles. I was so happy that I didn’t have to deal with cramping in those last few painful miles.) Over-hydration can be just as dangerous as under-hydration. Hyponatremia is a serious condition where your sodium levels become so low that it can even be fatal. Just be smart and use common sense and you should be fine.
- Repair the Damage – Within 30 minutes following your race make sure to consume both carbs and protein. You need to replace the glycogen storage and also give your muscles the protein that they need to repair. You should aim for about 50 to 100 grams of carbohydrates and about 15-25 grams of protein. Many people have a hard time getting food down right after the race so eat slowly but make sure that you give your body the nutrients that it needs. Also start replacing fluids and electrolytes by slowly sipping some sports drink.
Again, the most important piece of advice that I can give is to get to know your own body. Use your training runs as dress rehearsals for your race. Good race nutrition can make a huge difference in your race performance and the way your body bounces back. Good luck on your upcoming runs. Let me know if you have any questions or comments and keep “Running Through Life.”