The Do’s and Don’ts of Pre-Race Nutrition!

Marathon training with my running partner and boyfriend Michael has really opened my eyes up to pre-race and pre-run nutrition.  I have been blessed to have a strong stomach and rarely have issues with food and digestion.  Michael on the other hand has a very sensitive stomach.  Some foods can set his stomach off very quickly.  He also struggles with bloating and gas during and after runs.  His first half-marathon experience was over shadowed by this.  Regardless of whether you have a sensitive stomach or not your pre-race nutrition is important. I found this recent Runner’s World article, Pre-Race Nutrition Tips.  Since it is fall race season I thought many of you may find this helpful!

Michael and I before the Chicago Marathon 2011

Carb Loading!

If you’re doing a marathon or an ultra marathon or even a half-marathon this may seem like a great idea.  You burn so many calories during those races and training runs you definitely need something to keep you fuller longer.  The key to this is to not eat a pound of pasta in one sitting the night before the race.  Doing that makes it hard for your body to digest all of that and may cause some bathroom issues.

Instead you should spread out your carbohydrates.  Plan for some oatmeal or a bagel in the morning.  Pack a healthy lunch with potatoes, rice or pasta.  For dinner plan a balanced meal with fiber and protein but include some carbohydrates as well.  If you do this over the week before your race or in the few days before that training run you will see some positive results!  For more detailed information on carb loading and a sample of a day of carb loading check out this post, Successful Carb Loading for a Successful Marathon!

Clif Bars are the perfect carb loading snack!

Drinking lots of Water!

I did this before NYC Marathon, I drank tons of water the day before.  I thought it would be helpful.  In reality, it just made me have to go to the bathroom more frequently.  Here’s what Runner’s World says:

Not only will chugging too much water before a race leave you feeling bloated, but it will also dilute your electrolytes–minerals responsible for optimum muscle contraction. Diluted electrolyte levels can cause muscle weakness or cramping and, in extreme cases, can lead to hyponatremia, a life-threatening condition triggered by abnormally low sodium levels.

They say it far better than I could.

What you should do is drink normal amounts of water and fluids the week before.  Coffee and tea are fine to drink as well.  If your low on sugars drink your juice, Gatorade or sports drink as you normally would. I’ve recently added this to my long run routine and can say it really does help.  Drink a 16oz. glass of water about two to three hours before your race or run.  Then have another glass right before the gun goes off.  I usually have an 8oz. glass of water with my oatmeal 30-40 minutes before my run and then 4oz. of Gatorade before we walk out the door.  I find this works well for me, I need to hydrate less during my runs. My advice, don’t over do it or you’ll be running to the bathroom!

Coffee is Ok!

Eating too much fiber!

I regularly eat my beans, fruits and vegetables.  I’m someone who needs all of that roughage, it just makes things better.  But some people and runner’s in this world get by eating pizza, burgers, take out and skipping those veggies.


Pre-race or the days before a long run are probably not the best time to start eating them.  They may cause gas while running which would be SUPER uncomfortable.  That said if you do suffer from gas while running and think it may be related to fiber you should eliminate bran cereals and beans.  Do keep eating your fruits and veggies just in smaller portions and possibly only once a day.

Skipping Breakfast!

Trust me, this is a REALLY bad idea. I learned this from experience.  More than once.  If your racing or doing a long run first thing in the morning you NEED fuel for your body.  If you don’t fuel yourself correctly you may end up bonking, which is NEVER fun!  Clif Bar Shot Bloks, or GU is not enough for our bodies and your blood pressure will spike and fall.

If you are really nervous (been there) you may not be able to stomach food.  I suggest starting with something simple, a couple of pieces of toast or an English muffin or some plain oatmeal.  Eat it bite by bite, chew slowly, swallow, relax a minute and take a another  bite.  Eating two to three hours before the race will allow everything to settle. If you just REALLY can’t deal with real food opt for a smoothie.  Milk, bananas and juice are just a few light on the stomach things to add!

Trying Something New!

My favorite part of racing is going to new places and getting to be a tourist.  Is there really any better way to see a new city than to run through it?!  One of my favorite things about traveling is checking out new restaurants and new foods.  It’s hard to forgo that new food and stick to something I know the day and night before a race.  But it is a MUST!  I plan my trips so that I have some time AFTER the race to go and experience all the new foods and restaurants I want…celebration dinner anyone?!  Even if it is just a long run, stick to things you know.  Nothing is worse than being miles from home and in need of a bathroom!

All in all, you should not do anything too drastic with your pre-race and pre-run meals.  Stick to a healthy balanced diet and foods you know that sit well.  We train hard and put a lot of sweat and heart into these runs so don’t ruin them with something so avoidable as your diet and food! Eat well, train well!

What are your tips for fueling before a race? What foods affect you on a run? What do you like to eat before a race?


2 thoughts on “The Do’s and Don’ts of Pre-Race Nutrition!

  1. GOactivities says:

    Really great post (we are suckers for food pics here at GO Activities!) We wanted to do a post on staying well nourished for a long race or a walk so this is handy! Thumbs up 🙂 (Except we don’t get cliff bars in the UK – boo!) is about getting people who wouldn’t usually go ghyll scrambling, caving, monster trucking, biking, running marathons etc out there! Check out our blog and website if you fancy a read.

    Elaine @ GO Activities x


    • liverunloveyoga says:

      Thank you! My food pics are improving…finally found the right lighting and the right camera setting to make them look better…still a work in progress! That’s sad you don’t get Cliff Bars…they are so delicious! Could you order them online? Your website sounds great and highly motivating…I’ll definitely check it out! Thanks for stopping by and check back often for new posts!


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