If you are preparing for a race, you should know how to fuel up your body the right way in order to perform the best. No matter how hard you have trained for your 5K or marathon race, eating the wrong food can ruin everything. So, it’s important to know the best foods that can give you the energy to run.
Timing the meal
You should time your meals perfectly. It is advisable to divide it up into three sessions: 2 hours before the race, 1 hour before the race, and 15 minutes before the race.
- 2 hours before the race: You should eat foods that are rich in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and small in healthy fats. Oatmeal, whole pasta, etc. are good choices that will give you 300 to 400 calories.
- 1 hour before the race: Your meal should be smaller and contain carbohydrate and a small amount of protein. At this point, you should consume only 150 calorie that is available in banana, crackers, or toast and nut butter.
- 15 minutes before: You should have a light snack that is easy to digest. Eating a hand full of nuts or half a banana can be a good choice.
- Intra-run snacks: If you are running a marathon which takes hours to complete, you need to consume some snacks while running. You can just grab an energy bar and sports drinks to get the fuel you need to continue running.
You should always be well hydrated. It is recommended that you drink about 500 to 590 ml of water before the race. Staying well hydrated throughout the race will keep you refreshed and energized.
Why is it important to eat properly before a run?
You should eat the right food at the right time in order to perform well in a race. Your muscles use glycogen and you lose half of the glycogen stored during sleep. So, you need to make it up in the morning by eating so that you get the energy to run.
Pre-run meals are important for the following reasons.
- It will help you to avoid getting hungry during the race.
- It helps you maintain the optimal blood sugar level for the exercising muscles.
- It reduces fatigue and speeds up recovery.
So, make a plan to eat the right food while you are still training for the race. Eating these foods just before the day won’t help.
10 best foods to eat before running
Here we have come up with a list of the 10 best foods that you can eat before running. Besides consuming these foods at the right time, you should remember to drink enough water to keep yourself hydrated all the time.
Banana is super nutritious and one of the best foods to provide the fuel to your body before a run. It is quick and easy to eat as you don’t need any preparation or utensils for it. Here are the benefits of having a banana before the race.
- Banana is rich in carbohydrates and potassium which are good for the body. You lose a lot of potassium with sweating, so banana can make up for it.
- It helps to maintain blood glucose levels so you won’t feel uncomfortable.
- It contains antioxidants, vitamin B-6 and other important nutrients that are good for the body.
You can have one or more bananas a few hours before the run. But don’t eat too many bananas 15 to 20 minutes before your race as you might find it difficult to digest.
Oatmeal is a perfect meal to eat about two hours before running. It is super nutritious and fibrous that will keep you full for a longer time. You get a lot of energy from it as it’s rich in carbohydrates and has a low glycemic index. You can have oatmeal along with banana and nuts. As nuts contain unsaturated fats, it will help in post-race recovery as well.
Pure peanut butter doesn’t contain any sugar or oil which might affect your health. It is a good source of vitamin E and antioxidants. Though it contains fat too, these are good fats and so doesn’t harm the body.
- Peanut butter helps to lower the cholesterol levels in the blood.
- It is important for strengthening the immune system.
- It helps the muscles to grow and is very helpful in speeding up the post-run recovery.
- It is rich in carbohydrates that provides sustained energy and helps you to run for a long time without getting tired.
- It contains protein and fat that gives you the feeling of being full.
You can put on peanut butter on a piece of whole grain toast and eat it two hours before running. It tastes good and will keep you energized as well. It is also portable and so you can just grab and go.
Yogurt is very nutritious and has a biological value (the measure of the proportion of absorbed protein from a certain food) of 85% due to the high content of amino acids. It also contains the perfect amount of carbohydrates and proteins. The carbohydrate in yogurt provides immediate energy to get you started and the proteins keep you away from feeling hungry.
- Yogurt helps to speed up the recovery process, and by doing so, it also protects the muscles.
- It contains calcium that strengthens the bones.
- It also contains lactic acid bacteria or probiotics that improve the immune system.
The texture of yogurt makes it very easy to eat. So, even if you are in a hurry, you can have it. You can add some honey to it and eat the yogurt with granola.
Drinking a smoothie containing fruits, milk or juice will give you the energy to run. It is also easy to consume and a great drink to have in the morning when the appetite is low. Solid foods can cause nausea and so smoothies can be a perfect replacement. Here are the benefits of having smoothies:
- Smoothies are easy to digest compared to solid foods.
- It rehydrates the body helps you to run better.
- The fruits and other ingredients you add in a smoothie are very nutritious and they will give you the energy to run and stay full.
Just blend your choice of fruits, nuts, milk or yogurt in a blender and you will be ready to start the day. A good smoothie contains the perfect combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber that will improve your performance at the race.
Dark chocolate contains at least 70% cacao and so its fat content is extremely low. It has several health benefits and you can have it before running.
- Dark chocolate lowers the cholesterol level and blood pressure.
- It helps to reduce inflammation so you won’t feel uncomfortable while running.
- It improves your mood which will help you to perform better.
Having all these benefits don’t mean that you can have the whole bar before running. Just get two to three squares and that will be enough for you. You can have a handful of nuts with it for good snack time.
It is common for people to hold pasta parties just before a marathon. Whole-grain pasta is a high-carb meal and helps you to fill up the glycogen stored in your body. You need sufficient glycogen reserves to get the energy to run long miles and whole-grain pasta will give you just that.
- Pasta contains B vitamins that are essential for building muscles.
- It gives a lot of energy to improve your performance and endurance.
- It doesn’t feel heavy in the stomach, yet provides a lot of calories.
You can have pasta with tuna and tomato sauce. You must avoid the carbonara version as it contains too much fat which is not good for your body, and definitely not something to eat before running.
Drinking coffee before a race can help the runner in many ways. It not only makes you refreshed, but it can also improve your performance. You will be able to survive the high-intensity period and run faster by drinking coffee. You should drink black coffee with no added sugar. There is a misconception that coffee causes dehydration; however, it actually doesn’t and is a perfect drink for the runner. It is safe to drink coffee at least 45 minutes before running.
Dried fruits like figs, dates, and raisins are full of energy. If you are in hurry, you can just get some of these and go for the race. It contains fructose which is easy to absorb by your body and won’t make you feel bulky. You will get a lot of calories from just a handful of these dried fruits. Dried fruits are great as mid-run snacks during a marathon.
Energy bars are convenient, tasty and most importantly healthy. You need to choose the right bar depending on the time you are having it. For example, if you are eating it two hours before the run, you should get a bar that is rich in carbohydrate. At a later time, you should get something that contains more protein.
- Energy bar can give you quick calories to run that extra mile.
- It contains high-quality proteins that help to build muscles and prevent injuries.
- It makes you full and you will be able to survive the race without feeling hungry.
Energy bars can help to give you the consistent energy you need for running. You should choose an energy bar that has the perfect combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
You should avoid fibrous and high-fat foods that are difficult to digest and may cause bloating. It is better to avoid foods that may cause stomach problems such as junk or spicy foods. Don’t try anything new on the race day as it might make your stomach upset.
Not all foods are suitable for everyone. You may find it easy to digest an Apple for example, but someone else may have a stomach problem. So, it is mandatory to experiment with these different foods during your training sessions so that you know which foods you find easy to digest. The foods listed here will give you the energy to survive during the race, so you should plan your pre-race meal accordingly.