Eating healthy is very important. But what you should eat before a race is vital. Choosing the wrong foods, or eating too much or not enough, even eating at the wrong time can affect your performance and possibly ruin your race, or affect your performance at least. Eating the right pre-race meal at the right time ensures that all your hard training doesn’t go to waste.
Obviously depending on what you are about to do whether a short run, or a long distance run, then the amount of carbohydrates needed varies. The right food prevents premature fatigue and keeps blood-sugar levels steady. The reason we need carbohydrates as runners is because the body converts them into glycogen, a source of energy stored in the liver and muscles.
CARBOHYDRATES is the main source of fuel for your body during a run. Stored carbohydrates, or glycogen, are stored in skeletal muscle and the liver for use during workouts. As a result of the body’s high energy requirements during exercise, a runner’s diet should contain at least 60 to 70 percent calories from carbohydrate sources, such as whole grain cereals and breads, fruits and vegetables.
PROTEIN helps rebuild muscle that is broken down or damaged during exercise. Although many people believe that they need a lot of protein to enhance performance, too much protein can actually negatively affect your workout/run because protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates.
FAT is needed in order to sustain basic function, but consuming foods too high in fat can impair performance because they require too much energy to digest. Some good sources of fat are: flax oil, salmon and olive oil. In fact, omega-3 fatty acids actually help the body stay well-hydrated. In the few hours leading up to the race, you should keep your fat consumption to a minimum.
WATER is very important for runners because the body looses so much water through sweat. In addition, water helps to clear the body of metabolic waste products such as lactic acid that are produced during exercise. While everyone is different, try to consume at least sixteen ounces of water during the two hours before exercise. If you are going to run longer than 60 minutes, bring fluids with you keep you hydrated during your run.
TIMING is very important. The ideal time for a pre-race meal is about four hours before the race, because it’s early enough to digest and store a large amount of energy (i.e. a large number of calories), yet late enough that this energy won’t be used up by race time.
The appropriate size of your pre-race meal depends on three factors: the duration of your race, your size and the timing of the meal. The longer the race you’re running and the heavier you are, the larger your pre-race meal should be. The closer your pre-race meal falls to the race start, the smaller it must be. If you’re able to eat 4 hours out, you can safely consume up to 1,000 calories. If you eat just 2 hours before the start, eat a smaller meal of 300 to 400 calories.
Choose foods and drinks that are not only easily digested, but also easily consumed, especially if you’re prone to nervousness. Few athletes have their usual hearty appetite on race mornings, but the butterflies in their stomach usually permit consumption of soft, bland foods such as oatmeal and bananas. That is what I have to do since I usually have trouble sleeping the night before a race, and then trying to control my nerves and eating something makes it worse. I usually stick to bland foods.
A liquid meal like a breakfast shake is another good choice, as long as it’s high in carbohydrate and low in protein, fat and fiber. If you don’t have a ritual pre-race meal, try various options and pay careful attention to the results. As with your pre-race dinner, once you’ve settled upon a pre-race breakfast that works well, stick with it.
When ever I have a long distance race or a long run, I usually have a carb loaded dinner the night before. It helps keep my energy levels up and helps me out a lot since race day I’m overwhelmed with excitement and nerves it’s hard to eat! For my half marathon, the week leading up to my race I kept my diet strict, and full of foods with carbs, protein, and good fats that would help my performance and keep my energy up.
Here are some foods you can have before a race:
BANANAS are almost all carbohydrate. A large banana contains more than 30 grams of carbohydrate, just one gram of protein and no fat whatsoever. Bananas are also high in potassium (400 mg), which is lost in sweat during running. It is a great plus that they are easily digested. I would say it is the easiest to eat while the nerves are in full effect =)
BAGELS makes an excellent pre-race breakfast food, it’s rich in carbohydrate,it’s bland and easily digested, but also because it’s something many runners eat for breakfast routinely, hence familiar. Eat it dry or top it with something low in fat such as a light smearing of reduced fat cream cheese or peanut butter.
OATMEAL like bananas, oatmeal is almost pure carbohydrate, plus soft and light in taste. It is also the most filling food among the five best pre-race foods, which is good for those wanting something substantial in their belly before they head out to burn a few thousand calories. Some runners also prefer to eat a real breakfast food for breakfast, and oatmeal certainly provides that.
POWER BARS such as PowerBar and ClifBar are made to be eaten before exercise. Most are very high in carbohydrates and low in fiber, fat and protein. The better bars also contain useful amounts of sodium, potassium and the antioxidant vitamins C and E.
MEAL REPLACING SHAKES with brands such as Boost and Ensure have a perfect nutrition profile, they take care of energy and hydration needs, they’re super-convenient, and nothing is easier to consume before a race, even if you’re extremely anxious. I’m personally not a big fan of these. I’ve taken them and I don’t receive what I need. By providing so much nutrition in such little volume, they are not as filling as solid foods and can actually leave you feeling hungry in the middle of a marathon if you rely on them solely.
Don’t have enough time to eat these meals hours before your run? Try these options! They contain carbohydrates for quick energy, a bit of protein to hold off hunger, and some electrolytes to keep your fluid levels balanced (it’s best to avoid too much fat and fiber, which take longer to digest and can spell GI trouble). Best of all, these snacks take little to no preparation needed.
If you are running in an hour or more:
- hummus and carrots- protein-and-carb combination will help keep you satisfied during long runs. The sodium in hummus will make you thirsty for a few extra sips of water. I’ve seen single cup serving of hummus sold with carrots at supermarkets.
- Instant oatmeal packs- A good source of whole grain. It’s great for longer runs because it sticks to your ribs without feeling heavy. And the instant oatmeal pack provide a variety to choose from. This is my usual go to quick meal before a run.
If you are running in half an hour:
- Iced coffee- A quick, drive-through option, Frappuccinos, iced caffe lattes, and similar cold coffee beverages provide liquid to hydrate you while also cooling you down before a warm workout. The milk provides some protein, while the caffeine can improve your focus during a run.
- dried dates- The natural sugars in these are a concentrated source of quick carbohydrates. They are also packed with potassium, which helps muscle function. Two dates contain 10 percent of your daily needs—the same as a small banana. 😉
If you are running in 15 minutes:
- Oranges- quench your thirst while providing more than 100 percent of your daily need for vitamin C. “This vitamin helps prevent muscle injuries and replaces collagen in muscle fibers that break down during exercise,” says sports dietitian Pamela Nisevich Bede, M.S., R.D.,
- Applesauce or pudding- These snacks are easy to digest and won’t cause GI problems, making them safe to eat just before a run. Both options also provide a hit of carbohydrates with little or no fiber.
- Power bar- gives you enough to get you through any run. But if you are trying to PR or improve performance, this shouldn’t be your first choice. It does give you just enough to make it through your run. When I am really pressed for time, I eat one and can run 6-7 miles without feeling tired, or sluggish.
Here is a quick guide on calories needed:
Running 30 minutes to an hour: 150 calories are needed.
Running an hour to 90 minutes: at least 200 calories, better 250 calories
Running 90 minutes or more: 300 calories should be good. Cliff bars are excellent being they are high in calories and carbohydrates. They are great fuel for long runs! I love them! they are really good!
Eating the right foods is important to a runner. It will effect your performance, and how you feel overall. Eating the perfect fuel producing foods will keep you running at your best, and help with muscle recovering. As most of these foods also aid in restoring muscles are a run.