March 8, 2013 Leave a comment
I recently wrote about the question of whether to eat or not before a run, but a friend recently asked me a more specific and detailed question:
What should I eat during the days before a race and on the day of the race?
The very clear answer: it depends on the race you are running.
If you are racing a distance of 8 miles or less, what you eat on the days before is not quite as critical.
- Feeling Good: It is always better to stick with healthy foods, especially as you approach race day. This will help you feel your best.
- Avoiding GI Issues: There is no avoiding this topic. It is hard to run your best when you feel bloated or suddenly feel the need to poop. You know your body best. Eat foods that agree with your body and encourage regularity. Eat early enough on race day to allow any extra pressure in that area to work itself out well before you head to the starting line. Specifically, eat at least 2 hours before start time. Three hours would be better, but do not lose sleep over it.
- Energy: Assuming you are eating enough calories to maintain your current weight, you are naturally storing enough calories to run a race of this length.
- On Race Day: You really do not need to eat much on race morning. Stick with easy to digest carbohydrates. Avoid fat, which can slow digestion and slow you just a bit.
If you are racing 10 or more miles, what you eat in the days before a race makes a much bigger difference.
- Feeling Good: It is still true at any distance; It is always better to stick with healthy foods, especially as you approach race day. This will help you feel your best.
- Avoiding GI Issues: This is especially relevant for racing longer distances; it is hard to run your best when you feel bloated or suddenly feel the need to poop. You know your body best. Eat foods that agree with your body and encourage regularity. Eat early enough on race day to allow any extra pressure in that area to work itself out well before you head to the starting line. The difference on the longer distance races is that you should limit your intake of fiber starting the day before the race.
- Energy: You must consider carb-loading. At 10-13 miles, you might naturally store enough calories to run a race of this length., but you should keep your tank topped off to make sure. For marathons (or anything beyond 13) it is absolutely critical! Gradually increase the percent of your calories that you get from carbohydrates. By the day before the race, as much as 80% of your calories should come from carbs.
- Hydration: An important part of carb-loading is hydration. In order to store those carbs as glycogen in your legs, your body must store some water with it. Most experts suggest sipping on sports drinks for a day or two before a marathon. It delivers the carbs and water together.
- On Race Day: For a marathon, you need to have a substantial number of calories in the morning. One expert suggests consuming enough easy-to-digest carbs to provide 200 calories for each hour you are awake before the race. Keep it simple. Avoid fat of any kind on race morning. Whatever you eat that morning, get it in your body about 3 hours before the start. As the start approaches, shift to your race fuel. (gels, sports drink, …)
- Calories DURING the race: This one is complicated. For a half marathon, most just need one or two gel packets to make it through. There are mathematical formulas involved in the calculations for marathons and other races longer than the half marathon. At 160 pounds, I know I personally have to consume around 1,100 calories through gels and sports drinks along the marathon route in order to avoid running out of energy. I will save that technical info for another post.
What you eat in the days before the race can make or break your attempt at running a personal best. Think about the consequences before you reach for something to eat. Get enough of the right things at the right times and you will be happier with the results.
Eat well & enjoy the run!
The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is now available in both paperback & e-book
- Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00
- Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99
- Ebook Version for Nook $2.99