Once people discover how much I love running and how often I lace up and get outside, one of the most frequent questions I get is…“What should I eat before a run/race?“ Having been a runner/racer for 11 years, you would think I’d have a very specific answer for this, but the truth is that I don’t!
What About Carb Loading?
You hear the term carb loading tossed around a lot when talking about running. The truth of the matter is that carb loading isn’t really important until your talking about half marathon distances or greater.
Carb loading is also not something you do the night before a race; this process must be started at least a week before race day to actually have any impact on your body during the race.
Do I personally carb load? I never have…but my regular diet definitely includes a lot of bread
Should I Stay Away From Sugar?
Yes and no…
Is it good to eat super healthy for a few days before a race? Some people feel like this practice helps them run better, but others (including olympic athletes) eat whatever they want whenever they want.
In my opinion, the thing to be aware of on the topic of sugar is that your body uses glucose (sugar) to run, which means that you do need to have some form of it in your body in order to perform well during a run or race. This doesn’t mean you need to eat jelly beans before a run (even though I definitely do this on a regular basis), but it does mean eating bread, or fruit, or oatmeal…foods that can be quickly and easily turned into glucose in the body.
Do I Have to Eat Anything Specific?
Water….you need water for sure.
I do believe it is important to start hydrating for a race the night before, especially if it is going to be a hot one. Aside from that (and my rant about glucose above), my thoughts are as follows:
I have a sensitive stomach, so for me, the biggest hurdle when it comes to figuring out what to eat the night before, 2 hours before, and immediately after a run is finding something that will help fuel my run, but also not upset my stomach.
My food suggestions for these 4 times (Night Before, 2 Hours Before, Immediately After, Later that Day) are as follows:
The Night Before
Eat something fairly healthy that you know won’t upset your stomach. Avoid overeating or under-eating.
Chicken Salad or Soup & Bread
A breakfast with complex carbohydrates and not too much fiber.
Oatmeal or Peanut Butter Toast
1 Hour Before
High sugar/glucose foods.
Banana or NutriGrain Bar
Water, and food with simple sugars that your stomach can handle.
Later that Day
Anything that sounds good!
Costa Vida, Sushi, & Slurpees