If you’re anything like most runners you spend a fair amount of time thinking about food. What you’re going to eat, when you’re going to eat it, and if you’ve had enough food. And with good reason! Running burns an average of 500-800 calories per hour (depending on body composition and speed). That energy out needs to be put back into the body in order to help the body recover, repair, and grow stronger.
But how much thought do you put into what you eat the morning of a race? This gets a little trickier. You need to pay attention to a multitude of factors: caloric intake, type of macronutrient (fat, carbs, protein), how well it interacts with your stomach, and (yes) taste!
As a general rule of thumb, carbohydrates should make up the majority of your meal – as they will provide your immediate energy source and are broken down more rapidly than fats or proteins. The type of carbohydrate you consume will depend on your personal preference as well as race distance. A high glycemic index food will break down quickly and cause a fast entrance of sugar into the blood while a low glycemic index food will break down more slowly causing a more even release of sugar and more even maintenance of energy levels. Adding in a small amount of protein and fat is helpful in slowing the breakdown of the carbohydrate as well and will lead to more even blood sugar as well as preventing the empty hunger feeling.
How much you eat depends on your race distance. Your stored glycogen will last you about two hours (assuming you’re working around 85% of your max heart rate). This means you may not need to eat anything at all directly before a shorter race (such as a 5k). This also means you will need to eat prior to a longer race, and may also need to consume calories mid race (stay tuned for a later blog post on this).
So what are some of our favorites? The classic standby of a banana and peanut butter is high on the list. Bananas are easily consumed and digestable and the peanut butter provides the right level of protein and fat (not to mention is delicious). We’re also a fan of Honey Stingers waffles and peanut butter. They’re an organic and all natural waffle that comes in many amazing flavors as well as gluten free options. Quite truthfully, we’d eat them as a snack as well.
So tell us: what’s your go-to pre-race meal?
Happy eating and happy running!