Preparing for a road race can be confusing for beginning runners, what with all the contradictory information available. What you eat before a race depends upon the length of the race and upon what you can or can't digest easily. Here are some good rules of thumb for eating before a road race.
You Don't Necessarily Need to Load Up on Carbs the Night Before
If your road race is shorter than 10K, then you don't need to carbo-load the night before the race. Chances are your body will already have all the energy it needs in the form of stored fat cells. Carbo-loading will weigh you down.
You should eat breakfast on the morning of the race. If you don't eat anything, you'll find you've run out of energy near the end of the race, and you'll really struggle.
Eat a small, high-carbohydrate snack about an hour before the race. Choose foods that are low in fat and protein. Peanut butter, low-fiber fruits (like bananas, grapes and grapefruits), yogurt and cereal are all good choices. You don't want to feel stuffed when you begin the race, but you don't want to feel hungry either.
Follow a Healthy Diet Consistently
Keep your diet healthy on a regular basis. This doesn't mean you have to give up all your favorite sweets and high fat foods forever, but eat them with moderation. In general, you should eat a diet consisting of unprocessed whole grains, lean meats and dairy, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes. Instead of eating three large meals a day, eat four or five smaller ones. You're using more energy than most people, so you need to spread out your meals.
Avoid Certain Foods before a Race
On the day before and the day of a road race, you'll want to avoid certain foods. Here they are:
- High fiber foods can upset your stomach if you eat them too close to a race. Avoid whole grains and high fiber vegetables, legumes and fruits the day before and the day of a race.
- Avoid high fat foods the day before a race and on race day. These foods are slow to digest and will feel heavy in your stomach.
- Avoid caffeine the day before and the day of a road race. Caffeine could cause stomach problems if you race after consuming it.
Eat Right before a Race
The day before and the day of a race, try eating some of these foods:
- Low fiber fruits and vegetables like zucchini, olives, grapes and grapefruit are good to eat before a race, especially as part of your pre-race snack (to be eaten about an hour before the race).
- Milk free dairy products made from soy, almond and rice won't upset your stomach if you eat them as part of a pre-race snack.
- Refined carbs can be a part of your diet on the day before and the day of the race. White rice, white bread and white pasta shouldn't take the place of whole grain versions of these things in your diet, but they can be eaten as part of a pre-race snack because they're easier to digest.