Rules & Tips on What to Eat the Week of your Race!
Rule #1: Never try anything new on Race Day.
This is a big no no. Have you ever heard the saying "practice like you play", well... it goes hand-and-hand with this scenario. Never venture too far from your normal diet that your body is used to during your training. It’s easy to get nervous in the last days of your tapering and to be persuaded by a new product a friend recommends or use something you see at the race expo. Although, they might make it sound like a good idea - if you haven’t tried it before, especially at marathon pace or during a long run, then it's best not to use it at all. Everyone's bodies react different to certain products and nutrition. A change in routine, or putting something in your body that your body isn't used to will only upset your stomach or cramp up your muscles during your run. It's recommended to be adventurous with products during your training leading up to the race as have more time to find what works best for you.
It’s also important that you experiment with the quantity and timing of the food you intake before you run. Some runners have very weak stomachs and need up to three hours to digest food before they can run comfortably without cramping. Other runners can eat within an hour of a hard run and have no problem. All foods digest at different rates. Fruit like bananas and oranges are high in sugars and nutrients which can quickly be digested.
We cannot stress how important it is to find out which type of runner you are during training and to take this information into account when you plan for what and when to eat the morning of the race.
On your final training runs leading up to the race eat the same pre-race meal you’re planning for when you wake up in the morning.
Implementing this will give you an answer on how your body will react and determine whether you need to change things up before race day if you find it doesn’t work for you.
5 days out from the race
- Begin to increase your total carbohydrate intake by adding in more pastas, starches, and vegetables to your diet throughout the week.
- The old idea of depleting your carbohydrate stores the week before the race and binging on carbohydrates the last few days in an attempt to trick your body into overcompensating and storing more fuel is outdated.
- Ensuring that you consume a higher percentage of your total daily calories as carbohydrates is sufficient. The average runner burns 2600 calories during a Marathon, therefore, you should fuel your body with enough calories and energy to not deplete the glycogen stores in your muscles during the race.
- On the week of the race, you’re not running as much as you have been over the past 6-10 weeks, so eating too much more than you normally do will make you feel bloated and lethargic. Therefore, it it also important to relax and don’t go overboard on the calorie intake.
Examples of high carbohydrate foods: Sweet potatoes, pastas, baked potatoes, brown or white rice, sandwiches, bagels with peanut butter or jam, whole grains, certain cereals or oatmeal.
48 Hours from the race
- Typically, your last big meal should be between 24-48 hours before the race.
- This will give your body plenty of time to digest anything you eat so you won’t feel bloated on the morning of the race. Generally, the last thing you want is having the same thing happen during the race as the morning after Thanksgiving when you try to run...
- Usually for athletes training for Marathon, most will run a practice race of a lesser distance (10K-HALF) during their training period to practice and see what food works to fuel them before a run at a threshold pace.
Some examples of recommended pre-race meals are: pasta, rice, potatoes, and pizza. (avoid seafood)
24 hours from the race
- Fuel yourself with normal balanced meals like you would normally do on any training day, do nothing over the top.
- Make sure you hydrate with plenty of liquids all day long, especially electrolyte fluids such as Gatorade, Powerade or with electrolyte tabs such as Nuun, Biosteel or GU.
- A simple tip is to carry a water bottle along with you throughout the day as it is always a reminder for yourself to hydrate.
- You won’t be too active on the day before the race, so you may feel full quickly.
Some examples of ideal pre-race/training foods are: Sweet potatoes, pastas, baked potatoes, white rice, bagel with banana or jam
4 hours and less
- On the day of the race you should be up early enough before the race to eat a small breakfast (generally between 2-4 hours before the gun sounds.) This will give your body time to process and absorb the nutrients, and most importantly digest your food.
- You’ll want to drink mostly water on race day (unless you know temperatures at the race are going to be warm then you need to mix in water with some electrolyte fluids to keep your sugar levels up)
- Don’t try to get all your fluids down by chugging your water bottle... The only place you'll be running is to the bathroom
- Drink small, regular sized amounts. You’ll need at least 6 oz (200ml) every hour or 8 oz(250ml). every hour on hot days (half a 500ml water-bottle).
- Lots of runners will take a GU gel or other type of energy gel right before the gun goes off. Energy gels are mostly simple sugars and you’ll be consuming another 2 or 3 gels before the race is over. The rule is 45-60 minutes per gel and another rule is one we covered already in this article, "Practice like you Play!" If you haven't used it during training don't use it during the race.
My go-to breakfast – plain sesame seed bagel with jam and a banana. Other options include bagel with peanut butter, toast with honey, or dry cereal.
Hopefully after reading this article, you have a solid understanding on what will work best for you for you training runs, hard runs or long run, so stick with what works and a best of luck on your race day!