Food, glorious food – your pre-race nutrition guide
Play it safe
When it comes to pre-run nutrition, your best bet is to play it safe. And by safe, we mean familiar. The days leading up to an event definitely aren’t the best time to try the new snack bar everyone’s raving about on social media – it doesn’t matter how delicious it sounds or however much it promises to improve your performance!
Remember, everything can feel a bit heightened on run day, and nerves can kick in. It’s therefore a good idea to avoid particularly high fibre and spicy food in the run-up to a big race – foods like lentils, bran and hot curries – even if they fall into the ‘familiar’ category. The last thing you want mid-course is an emergency loo stop!
Suss it out in advance
You wouldn’t leave training to the last minute, and the same goes for your nutrition and hydration plans. Do your research – there’s a lot of information out there, but unfortunately there’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer. All of our bodies – and their needs – are different.
But if you’re tracking your runs, here’s a tip: pay attention to which food and water levels make you feel stronger and faster, and check your hunches against your performance. Feeling great usually means performing better – so work out what food and drink combos make you feel that way.
The truth about carb-loading
Experts recommend a degree of carb-loading for when you’re planning to run over 90 minutes, so consider how long you’re expecting your 10k or half marathon to take. Aim to start 2-3 days before your event to make sure you’re getting enough carbs in.
Remember, though: carb-loading doesn’t necessarily mean eating more. Aim for the same number of calories, but from carbohydrate-rich sources. Foods high in carbohydrates include bread, grains, pasta, starchy vegetables, nuts, homemade flapjacks and yoghurt.
The day before
Timing is everything before a big race. It can be a good idea to move your main meal to the middle of the day and have a smaller meal at dinner to give your body plenty of time to digest. Eating too much can put your body under stress, disturb your sleep and actually hinder your performance – definitely not what you want on event day.
Your pre-race meal
Given the timings of most of our Great Runs, your pre-race meal is likely to be breakfast – but what to eat to maximise your performance?
Well, as long as you’re sticking to the ‘play it safe and familiar’ rule, porridge is a great idea – plus, you can add a (familiar!) topping like nuts (which stop your insulin levels dropping), blueberries (help keep blood sugar levels steady) or sliced banana (good for potassium, which decreases as you sweat). Or whatever you normally have for breakfast is likely to stand you in good stead, whether it’s muesli, wholegrain toast or a bagel and boiled egg.
Hydration-wise, 500ml of water with your breakfast is just right. But as with everything running-related, look out for your body’s signals. With water levels, your best bet is ‘the pee test’ – check the colour of your pee before your run. Pale, straw-coloured pee? Perfect 🙂
Keep on running
It’s up to you whether you feel you need to take on extra fuel while you’re running. As a general rule, once you’ve been on the go for 75 minutes or so, you might find yourself starting to flag – your glycogen stores are starting to diminish and energy snacks or drinks can help keep your blood sugar steady and your legs pumping.
But the same goes here as for pre-race nutrition – stick with what’s familiar and definitely don’t try anything new on race day. This is what your training runs are for!
Feeling inspired? We’ve got some great energy-boosting recipes here – happy eating!