What you eat before, during and after a race can make or break said race. Many runners will not complete or hit goals for a race due to stomach issues caused by eating the wrong things.
Of course, it's important to modify general suggestions to the intensity of the race you'll be participating in, your goals for the race, the duration of the race and any personal dietary needs.
Some general tips that work for most pre- race fueling are the following:
- Carb- loading the day prior - Eat higher than usual quantities of carbs throughout the day prior to race day! Carbs you eat in the evening shore up your body’s energy stores for the next day. This is especially important if it is a long run you typically do not do. If it is a lighter run, there is not a big need to increase carb intake; instead focus on a wholesome dinner
Think brown and black rice, sweet potatoes and whole grain pasta! Eat smaller meals every couple of hours to keep yourself full, without stuffing yourself. Make sure not to overdo it with the cabs through, instead fill about half your plate with grains, one-quarter with veggies, and the rest with lean protein.
- Eat dinner earlier the day prior - say, 5 or 6 P.M. if you have a 7 or 8 A.M. start—and do not stuff yourself.
- Do eat Breakfast! - Have both protein and carbs. For example, an an egg or peanut butter with toast, three to four hours before go-time. Oatmeal is also a great option, as it is a slow- releasing carb not high in fiber. If you usually have caffeine, do not skip your morning cup-a-joe!
- Eat Salt - You will sweat quite a bit depending on the intensity of the race so it's important to have adequate salt intake. Some good foods to snack on are pickles or sauerkraut. Don't overdo it though, you may feel dehydrated or bloated if you ingest too much salt.
- Avoid greasy, fried, creamy or fats foods- as they may upset your stomach, keep you up at night and cause gastrointestinal problems. Fat takes longer to move through your system than carbs and protein.
- Avoid Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage. Sulfurous compounds called glucosinolates give cruciferous veggies their bitter taste and also potentially fight cancer—but also trigger gassiness and bloating. They are great healthy additions to meals, just not prior to race day!
- Avoid Fiber - While it is a great food to add to typical meals, before race day aim to limit intake as the feeling of fullness and slowed- down digestion may cause you to feel to full and bloated on race day. Many dietitians will actually recommend white rice instead of brown/ black rice prior to race day.
- Avoid Alcohol- The day prior, its important to avoid alcohol as its effects, even if just one glass, will be felt by your body on race day.
- Drink water- Divide your body weight in half and drink at least that many ounces per day in the week leading up to your race.
- Don't change things up on race day! - why switch things up and risk something not sitting well with your body? Everyone is different, so it's important to try out meals before race-day and stick to what works best for you! So experiment until you find what works and what doesn't.
What to eat during a race
Energy bars, energy gels and bananas are excellent for replenishing carbohydrate during a race. Take small bites and keep yourself hydrated.
Drink plain water and sports or isotonic drinks (for longer distances such as marathon).
Avoid sugary of processed drinks such as soda and fruit juices as the the high sugar concentrations may delay gastric emptying and cause stomach discomfort during the run
What to eat after a race
You made it! Even though the race is over, the next step is essential for proper recovery. Eating right can help decrease or eliminate post-run pains and aches.
The first thing to do is hydrate, drink plenty of water and consider sports drinks or isotonic drinks. . Avoid alcohol in the 24 hours following a race.
Do not drink just based on your thirst, as it won’t reflect all of your fluid needs. A couple of hours after a run, urine should be almost colourless.
Within one hour after a race or marathon, grab a carbohydrate-rich snack such as banana, sandwich, burger, energy bar, peanut butter on a banana, etc.
Within two to three hours after a race or marathon, have a balanced meal comprising a lean protein (fish, chicken), carbohydrates (rice, grains, whole-grain pasta ) and good fats (avocados, nut butter).