Your first race is coming up and your mind is a flurry of thought. You’ve trained for this. You’re prepared. You have your pace set and your running shoes ready for action. As you’ve strategized and planned, it’s important not to forget one of the most important factors in running a good race: the food that will fuel your body as you push it to the limit. There are a lot of misconceptions about what to eat the day before and the morning leading up to your race.
First, there are a few key things you should keep in mind before choosing the optimal meals. There is no single meal that is perfect for everyone. Each person has his or her own specific body chemistry and it can take a little time to hone in on what works for you. Once you have zeroed in on the best pre-race diet, it’s good to stick with it.
Second, it’s good to keep in mind that your last big meal before your race should come 12 hours before the start time. On the day of your race, you should consume 1,000 calories, but only if you can eat at least four hours beforehand. If you are eating two hours before the race, you should consume 300 to 400 calories. This gives you enough time to properly eat, digest and store your energy. Remember, you do not want to feel weak or tired during your race as this may, unsurprisingly, diminish your chance of winning.
What to eat
- Carb it up: It’s important to remember there are good and bad carbs. A bad source of carbs is one loaded with sugar that your body will burn through quickly, leaving you tired. A good carb burns slowly and gives you lasting energy that will help you get through your race. Breads, pasta, crackers and rice are all great sources of carbohydrates. A great meal might consist of whole wheat spaghetti with a healthy sauce, turkey meatballs (a great source of protein) and garlic bread.
- Fruit: Fruit is a great option for fuel before race time. It contains sugars that do not allow your body to crash, unlike the sugar in soda or energy drinks. Fruit smoothies are a great idea for your breakfast before a race, as they not only provide good sugar but some much-needed hydration.
- Protein bars: Protein bars are an excellent supplement for any runner. Be careful to avoid high protein/low carb protein bars, though, and make sure to check the nutritional facts on the packaging. Look for a brand that offers a good balance of carbs and protein.
- Oatmeal: Make Wilford Brimley proud by enjoying some oatmeal before your race. Look for rolled oats over instant as the former will keep you pleasantly full longer and offer your body more nutrition. Try this recipe to maximize your breakfast.
- Bagels: Bagels are a perfect blend of the carbs you need and a routine many runners enjoy. Don’t overdo it, though: skip the high-fat cream cheese.
Consider the options above and figure out, as you prepare for and participate in your race, what works best for you. You’re certain to find tasty recipes that will satisfy your palate and help you run at optimum speed!