Pre-Race: What to Eat

Nutrition Prior to Your Big Race is Key!

The right snack can prevent premature fatigue and keep blood sugar levels steady and heading off cranky moods that might cause you slow down early. Sports dietitians recommend eating up to 150 calories if you are running within 15 to 30 minutes and as much as 300 calories if you have an hour or to digest.

These options 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).

Running in 15 to 30 Minutes:

Oranges -- Easy to stash, slow to spoil and hard to bruise, oranges quench your thirst while providing more than 100 percent of your daily need for vitamin C. One orange has just 62 calories, enough to quiet a a growling stomach before a short run without going overboard. Stick with whole fruit instead of orange juice which is a very concentrated form of sugar. 

Applesauce or Pudding -- These scoopable snacks are easy to digest and won't cause GI problems, making them safe to eat just before your workout. Both options also provide a hit of carbohydrates with little or no fiber. Stick with varieties with 1.5 g of fat or fewer. Choose applesauce without the added sugar since it has nearly half the calories of the traditional version.

Running in 30 to 60 Minutes:

Cereal -- Stay away from high fiber cereals which are likely to cause stomach trouble during a run. Stick to cereals with fewer than 2 g of fiber per serving, like Special K or Rice Krispies. Eat it plain or pour in milk, your choice. Top with a half of cup of sliced strawberries or bananas for an extra kick of carbs and vitamins. 

Dried Dates -- The natural sugars in these are a concentrated source of quick carbohydrates. They are also packed with potassium which aid muscle function. Two dates contain 10 percent of your daily needs, the same as a small banana. Dried fruit can have up to 3 times the calories of fresh, so stick to a quarter cup serving. Don't like dates? Try dried apricots, mangoes, cherries, or blueberry flavored dried cranberries. 

Iced Coffee Drinks -- A quick, drive-through option, Frappuccinos, iced lattes, and other similar cold coffee beverages provided 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. A recent study also found that caffeine delays muscle fatigue during intense workouts. Frappes can have around 100 calories or 500. If you are headed to Starbucks, have the tall unsweetened coffee Frappuccino with fat-free milk for 160 calories and skip the whipped cream.

Running in 60 to 90 Minutes:

Hummus and Carrots -- This protein and carb combo will help keep you satisfied during long runs. The sodium in hummus will make you thirsty for some extra sips of water. Carrots are rich in beta carotene which in a recent study, may help to defend skin against sun damage. Pick up handy single serve cups, like Sabra Hummus Singles. A few whole grain crackers or wheat pita are other smart additions. 

Instant Oatmeal -- A good source of whole grains and "it sticks to your ribs" without feeling heavy. The instant variety is convenient plus one pack supplies 40 percent of your daily need for iron. Plain instant oatmeal is the best choice but it is OK to go with sweetened varieties when you are doing longer runs. The extra sugar will provide fuel. 

Sweet Potatoes -- High in carbs, sweet spuds provide long lasting energy for your run. One has 230 percent of the daily need for vitamin A which is important for a strong immune system. But if you eat it, give yourself an hour or more to digest before running. Microwave a small sweet potato and wrap it up to take to work if you are running after work. Reheat in the microwave.


Karen Craney
Training Program Coordinator
RRCA Certified Coach
Fleet Feet Sports Certified Coach
Fleet Feet Sports, Gaithersburg, MD

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