You’ve spent months training for and thinking about your upcoming race, hopefully being conscious about what you put into your body. Now, it’s here – it’s race day- and you might be wondering what you should eat to stay strong and achieve your goals.
As your body is expending energy during your race, you’ll need to refuel to keep up optimum performance, and give your body a head start with a solid diet in the days leading up to your race.
1. Don’t carbo-overload.
Carbo loading is great to stock up on energy in preparation for race day, but don’t overdo it. It’s not an excuse to eat the whole box of pasta. If you take in too many carbs the day before a race, you could overload your system, making you sluggish or causing digestive issues, the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. The better option is to take in a moderate amount of carbohydrates for several days leading up to the race.
2. Don’t skip breakfast the day of.
A pre-race meal is important for keeping blood sugar steady and providing energy throughout the race. Even if nerves have your stomach doing flips, you should still go for something light that focuses on carbohydrates with a touch of protein. Great examples include oatmeal with fruit, low fat yogurt with fruit and a banana, or a whole wheat piece of toast with an egg on top. If that seems to heavy for you, snack on a banana after you wake up and then grab a handful of nuts or granola to munch on about an hour before your race.
3. Take it easy with the water.
Water is very important, but remember, unfortunately, you can’t store it up and save it like a camel can. Drinking too much before you hit the starting line could lead to excessive bathroom breaks during the race. Instead, drink about 6 to 8 ounces of water about an hour beforehand and rehydrate as necessary during the race. For water during the race, you can either take a small water bottle with you or grab a quick drink at aid stations along the route. Also, make sure to keep your water intake levels up for the days following your race as your body recovers.
4. Replenish lost calories during the race.
The longer the race, the more calories you’re losing and to reach that finish line, you’ll need fuel. If you’re running a 5K, this isn’t as necessary, but it wouldn’t hurt to grab a banana chunk or orange slice at an aid station if they’re available. For those of you running longer distances, it is recommended you start consuming calories around 45 minutes to an hour into the race. These calories can come in the form of race gels and jelly beans. If aid stations are offering slices of fruit, be sure to grab some when convenient.
Note: Don’t chase race gels or jelly beans with a sports drink. This risks putting too much sugar into your system at one time. Instead, drink water.
5. Nothing new on race day.
The most important thing to remember is do NOT consume anything new on race day. Thinking about trying that new healthy Pinterest power smoothie? Skip it. You have no idea how your body will digest the meal. The same goes for any nutrition you take in during the race. Avoid new sports drinks, energy gels, jelly beans, or other supplements you haven’t tried during training while running the race.
The best advice is practice makes perfect; don’t just practice your distances, practice your entire routine including your nutrition and food intake during your training schedule.