Nutrition for Runners for Racing

Nutrition for runners is highly important especially when it comes down to race day. What you put into your body will directly affect your performance. Don’t take your nutrition before your race lightly!

One of the big mistakes that runners tend to make is to start a new “diet” right before a race. This is not recommended being that your body won’t be used to utilizing the new “diet” that you have just started, to meet your needs. Stick to what you have been eating and drinking while training and you will have a good balance of what you should be eating as a runner. It’s your best bet. Hopefully however you have set yourself up for good nutrition along the way.

Here is a Before, During, and After Race-Day Guideline for Nutrition for Runners

Week Before:

  • Start carbo-loading.  Increase your carbohydrate intake. Don’t be too excessive and focus on eating nutritious complex carbs!
  • Keep eating a balanced diet. Don’t try any new diets or foods. Be sure you are getting your 6 main nutrients and eating lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep drinking at least 6-8 glasses of water. The more the better.

3 Days Before:

  • Stay away from fatty, fried, dairy products like milk and cheese. These will have a negative affect on your running.
  • Try to avoid eating large amounts of protein. However you still need to be getting your recommended daily amount – about 50 grams per day.

Day Before:

  • Drinking fluids, most importantly water, is crucial in nutrition for runners! It is also good to be drinking something that contains electrolytes – the necessary ions that our bodies will lose during running through sweat loss and large intakes of water.
  • Eat a meal high in carbs.
  • Don’t overeat! Plus, anything eaten within the last 10-15 hours before a race won’t be processed enough to help your performance.

Race Day

  • Eat very light foods, those which you know won’t bother your stomach. It can be hard but do try to eat something before the race especially if its in the early morning so that you aren't running on empty. Some races provide snacks at their aid stations such as bananas or energy bars but don't count on it especially if you aren't used to these foods while running.
  • Keep drinking fluids! If you are running a long distance such as the half marathon or full marathon it is important to drink water and an energy drink such as Gatorade that most races offer. This is to ward off a serious condition called hyponatremia which is explained on our energy drinks page

After the Race

  • Eat something high in carbs within 30 minutes of finishing the race. (I always have a bag of gummy bears waiting for me after a marathon race – only because I love them and they are added motivation to get to the finish line! However eat some complex carbs such as whole wheat pasta or banana to get those good nutrients first!)
  • Wait to eat protein until your body has had time to cool down and begin to relax. Protein will help to begin the muscle repair process so don't forget all about it, have that steak you have been dreaming of!
  • Keep drinking fluids!

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