Pre-Race Meals and Timing
What to eat the day before a race, especially the night before is very important, it plays a major role in how your stomach will react the next day, and how strong your energy levels will be. After you have figured out what type of foods your body is happy with, then you can prepare your pre-race dinner with the right foods. Before a race, the old trend of 3 days of carb loading hasn’t been as popular due to some side effects. Eating high levels of refined carbohydrates which contain high glycemic index within a few days, will result in a spike and then crash in your blood sugar level. Our body can only process a certain amount of carbohydrates at a time. The ideal pre-race meals should include less processed sources of carbohydrates from whole foods with lower glycemic index. These types of healthy carbohydrates will provide a steady stream of glucose, which will stabilize your blood sugar level. More steady blood sugar will decrease the chances of waking up feeling famished and then bonking during the race.
What to eat a few days before a race:
- Carbohydrates– Eat some simple, easy to digest natural carbs from whole foods like sweet potatoes, white potatoes, rice, squash, pumpkin, oats, healthy bread, natural fruits, healthy pasta. Try to avoid eating high fiber foods the day before the race.
- Protein– Include some lean protein, the day before a race, avoid eating beef as it is harder to digest. Include some fish, tuna, chicken, pork. Make sure that you don’t eat deep fried foods, again these are more difficult for the body to process and digest. The day of the race you want to feel lighter, more energetic, not heavy and bloated.
- Vegetables and Fruits– Two days before a race avoid eating cruciferous vegetables (Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, kale, cabbage), these can cause bloating and gas, but they should be part of your regular healthy diet. Include some green vegetables, lettuce, avocado, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms. Eating fresh fruits will provide lots of vitamins, minerals, hydration and healthy carbohydrates.
- Healthy Fat– A few days before a race you should lower your fat intake. You should focus on easier to digest foods the day before a race. Avocados are one of the healthy fat you can eat before the day before a race.
If you eat a healthy daily diet, your body will not be depleted of nutrients, you don’t have to change your diet before a race, just adding a small amount of healthy easy to process carbohydrates, lean protein and lower fat will avoid any digestive issues. Eat a lighter dinner to make sure you are hungry in the morning for some breakfast.
You want to make sure that your body is trained with the pre-race breakfast fueling, so that you know what your body can handle and what to eat so you feel good and have enough energy. Again, make sure your find easy to digest foods so you don’t have any stomach issue at the start of the race. Focus on easy to digest carbohydrates, popular pre-run breakfast foods are bananas, bread or bagel with nut butter, honey, oatmeal with berries or banana, pancakes with fruits, rice, or noodles.
Pre-race dinner– If your race starts at 8:00am or earlier, make sure you have an early dinner no later than 6-6:30pm to make sure that when you wake up you feel a bit hungry.
Pre-race breakfast– Try to eat your breakfast 1 ½- 2 hours before the race. If your race starts at night, have a light dinner 3 hours before the race.