Before, During & After Running a Race: What Should I Eat?

So you’ve signed up for a race – that’s awesome! Come race day, you’re going to be pumped with energy and adrenaline and ready to rock it! But you’ve probably come to this article because you know that proper running nutrition is vital for your training, right? Whatever you eat on race day you want to have eaten before (during and after) your training runs as well. Just as you practice running for the big day, you need to be practicing race day nutrition as well.

Here’s how to best fuel your body & recharge your batteries before, during and after your race.

What to eat before your race

Breakfast: 3 – 4 hours before the race

Runners need carbohydrates. Former Austrian long distance runner, Günther Weidlinger, underlines: “Endurance athletes not only need vitamins, minerals, protein and fat, but also – and especially – carbohydrates.”

Here’s a few suggestions for a light breakfast rich in carbohydrates, low in fiber and fats & easy on your stomach:

Reminder:

Stay hydrated! Drink water or fruit juice mixed with water.

A man is holding a water bottle in one hand and his smartphone in the other hand

Snack: 30 min – 1 hour before the race

If you feel like it (and if you’ve tried it out during your training phase), you can have a little, starchy snack shortly before the start:

…plus a few sips of water.

What to eat during your race

When running for more than 1 hour, it makes sense to plan additional energy intake to fuel your run. But remember, you want to have practiced this during your training runs as well. Your digestive system needs time to get used to this. The best options are sports drinks and small snacks:

  • isotonic drinks
  • banana & oatmeal cookies
  • banana
  • sports gels

Try to take few sips every 15 to 20 minutes to stay hydrated. Isotonic drinks are ideal as they make up for a lack of both liquids and electrolytes. Be sure to know when the hydration stations are coming on your race route. If you need more hydration than is offered, bring your own hydration backpack or belt (but be sure to have trained wearing it as well).

What to eat after your race

“Carbs also play an important role for recovery. When you arrive at the finish line, exhausted, you need a quick energy boost. However, make sure you fuel up in the right order: first liquids, then purees, and then solid foods! This way you ensure your body recovers as fast as possible,” Güther says.

As the blood flow to your stomach will not be ideal right after the race, follow Güther’s advice and work your way from liquids to solids:

  • fruit juice, whey, sports drinks (hypertonic)
  • yogurt-based shakes
  • Low-fat yogurt with banana, corn flakes with skim milk or milk rice with low-fat milk and honey
  • semolina porridge or pancakes
  • pasta, rice or potatoes with lean fish or meat, veggies

Always remember:

Don’t start experimenting one week before the race. Eat what you’re used to and never try new drinks, foods or sports gels on race day!

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