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What to Eat Before a Race?

Training for any race is not an easy task. You could be training for a 5K, or maybe a half marathon or even a full marathon for months. You've put in the hard work of going on training runs on days where it was hot, or maybe cold, or rainy, or maybe snowy, or maybe the kids had a million and one activities but you still have done your best to put in the work to be in a spot where you will have a successful race.

In the final days leading up to the race, you need to take extra care of your body to make sure you are rested and ready to go for the big day! That means running less than a typical week during your training, getting the proper amount of sleep, but also it means giving your body the fuel it needs to successfully complete your race! Hopefully you've been eating well for a good part of your training, but I'm going to specifically talk about some recommendations a day or two before your race and the morning of your race.

We've all heard about "carb loading" before a run. While I don't recommend going crazy and eating pounds of spaghetti, many runners have found good success by slightly increasing carb consumption a day or two before a race. The combination of an increase in carbs, along with a decrease in your training has helped many runners store more energy for the race. If you want to keep it easy, you can go with some pasta, and a lean protein (chicken) with some bread. Also, don't forget that many fruits have carbs so maybe some fruit would be a good idea before or after dinner.

I've tried some different food options the night before a long run, and I've had good success with a dinner of salmon, rice (or quinoa), vegetables and sweet potatoes. Rice and quinoa are both good to have for the carbs and I like the sweet potatoes as a good starch. Before my 40 mile run in 2021 this was my dinner and it worked so I am planning to stick with it!

The morning of your race is important as well as you don't want to run on an empty stomach. Most races are early in the morning, so you'll have to get up pretty early on race day as you want to eat something at least 90 minutes before your race begins to give your body time to digest.

For breakfast - keep it simple. My preference is a banana and a Nature's Bakery Fig Bar. Both are easy to digest and the banana has some great electrolytes. Other good options could be - toast, small cup of oatmeal, small amount of peanut butter.

Every person responds to food in a different way, so the key is to try out your plan BEFORE your race. If you have a long training run on a Saturday, try out your dinner on a Friday and then get up early to try out your breakfast plan. If it works great, if not try something else!

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