Training for a race of any length requires more than dedication. You need a proper training regimen and the right fuel to see it through. Yet many runners stick to their regular diets and then lean too heavily on gel packs while training and on race day. Below, youâ€™ll find five of many runnersâ€™ favorite pre-race foods, why theyâ€™re great, and how eating more of them can make you better.
You simply canâ€™t get enough carbohydrates before a race. But at the same time, you donâ€™t want to gorge on pasta or other super heavy meals. A solution? Oatmeal. Itâ€™s lighter, easy on your stomach and loaded with whole grain carbs that will stay with you longer and just the right thing before burning a substantial amount of calories. Just make sure you eat it no less than 3 hours before or after the race. And if youâ€™re looking for an even bigger boost, try topping your oatmeal with almonds, raisins, and a bit of honey.
Low Fat Yogurt Itâ€™s the perfect running fuel. One cup can give you a quick influx of energy. Yogurt is also heart healthy, an immune system booster and a digestive aid. Low-fat yogurt is also packed with simple carbohydrates (easier for the body to break down) and it has a decent amount of protein for post-race muscle recovery. As a bonus, yogurt is extremely portable and comes in many different flavors.
Banana All hail the king of running fruit. Bananas are packed with carbohydrates and potassium. The carbs will give you the necessary energy you need while the potassium wards off cramping, due to the massive amounts of potassium lost through sweat. Bananas are also loaded with vitamin B6 to help your muscles and keep your immune system healthy. Have one 30-60 minutes before the race for best results.
Itâ€™s a classic, but for good reasons. They contain complex carbs, energy thatâ€™s not instantaneous, but can be called upon when needed. Bagels (we like whole grain or pumpernickel) are a more substantial option than toast and have plenty of options beyond cream cheese (which we would not recommend because dairy can upset the stomach) Bagels are also best eaten 30-60 minutes before the race. As a bonus, try honey, jams, or just a tablespoon of nut butter or peanut butter for longer lasting battery power.
The potato has gotten a bad rep because we often see it in its fried form, but you canâ€™t beat a healthily prepared potato for its carb-loading benefits. In fact, they are higher on the glycemic index than pasta! Potatoes are also loaded with potassium, (more than bananas) to aid in muscle recovery. Try any kind of potato mashed, baked or boiled for extra energy either for breakfast or the night before a big run.
Itâ€™s always a good idea to test drive how your body will react to your pre-race diet choices throughout your training. Remember the golden rule: Nothing new to your system on race day. Good luck!
For more on foods and meal ideas for all your training needs, read our in-house dietitian blogs.