What (Not) To Eat Before Your Race

It’s been a few years since I’ve ran a half-marathon. I’ve got one coming up on May 1. Not only has it been a while since I’ve run 13.1 miles, I’ll be doing it 20 weeks pregnant.

So, I have to plan. But, so does everyone who will be running this race. We’ve all been putting in the mileage (or most of it…). That’s the hard part. But, nutrition tends to be overlooked.

I’ve learned to appreciate what good nutrition and hydration can do for my running, biking and swimming. I know what works for me to get me through a long run – water, Gu, Larabars – and I tend to bring more than I need during a run just in case.

Hopefully, if you’ve got a race in the near future, you’ve figured out what works while you are out on the road or trails.

But, have you thought much about what to eat in the days leading up to the race? What about race morning?

Here are some great pre-race nutrition tips for runners prepping for a race of any distance, from 5K to marathon.

The first comes from the online addition of Runners World. It’s a list of five common nutrition mistakes and how to fix them.

Here are the mistakes:
Eating a Box of Pasta
Drinking Gallons of H20
Loading up on Fiber
Skipping Breakfast
Trying Something New

Why might these be mistakes? A lot of it comes down to the fact they might cause gut problems (and no one wants to deal with “stomach problems” on mile 9) or mess with your energy levels. Read this article to get the full scoop.

For a more in-depth article that touches upon pre-race nutrition but also offers excellent advice on a runner’s diet throughout training, see Hal Higdon’s take here. This page also has good advice on trying to diet while training and on staying hydrated while running long distance.

Here’s Higdon’s advice about eating before your race: “Carbohydrates are particularly important the night before your race, and even before your long runs or walks leading up to your race. That’s one reason why a lot of endurance races offer ‘pasta parties’ the night before. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids the day before the race, but stay away from diuretics that contain alcohol or caffeine.  It’s also a good idea to top off your fuel tank with a light carbo snack before going to bed. You also might consider rising early on race day so you can have a light, pre-race meal. Toast or a bagel washed down with orange juice and maybe one cup of coffee works well 2 or 3 hours before the race start – but practice this routine before your long training workouts to make sure this doesn’t upset your stomach.”

My main advice for the days leading up to the big event is one that is echoed by Runners World: Eat as clean and unprocessed of a diet as you can in the days leading up to the race. And drink lots of water.

Runners World: “In the days before a race, vary your diet with nongrain carb sources, such as fruits and starchy vegetables, to benefit from a wider range of nutrients.”

What are some of your pre-race nutrition strategies?


About kareiner

I'm an active mom who loves to cook. I'm passionate about health and fitness. I'm no expert, nutritionist, personal trainer or miracle worker. I just like being active and I like good food.
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