Deciding what to eat pre-race can be a challenge at best, a performance buster at worst. Hundreds of articles tell us what’s best to eat and drink before a race, but we all digest food a bit differently, to me, it makes sense to do some individual research on your own body to see what’s really best. Its been my experience that the magic bullet for one athlete is the fatal one for another. For example, most energy gels and bars cause me major intestinal distress. My husband, Chris, does half marathons and is a Shot Blok addict! He just wouldn’t leave the house on race day without them. For me, anything with major caffeine is sayanara. And anything with a lot of preservatives is pretty close to the same. While I can stomach exactly one sports drink and very few foods, an Arizona Masters teammate at the 2009 SCY USMS Nationals in Fresno chugged a Starbuck’s Cappucino before diving in the water to set a national record. I couldn’t have drank that and swam well to save my life!
After a few very uncomfortable races, I began experimenting with foods to figure out what worked best. In general, I do well with a light diet of mostly simple carbohydrates before a race. Most of the time, I eat an English muffin with creamed honey and a banana. Occasionally I eat waffles and grapes. Oatmeal, my favorite breakfast on non-racing days, makes me feel too heavy when I compete.
I finally found a sports drink that keeps me hydrated without upsetting my stomach. XOOD. The green tea formula is absolutely the best. I have suffered intestinal distress for years during races, especially after running. I tried a sample of this drink at a trail running race 9 and ever since, XOOD has been a part of my calm stomach as well as my racing plan!
Here’s a few quick suggestions to help you figure out what to eat and drink pre-race:
1 – Experiment with foods before a training session. If you plan to eat 90 minutes before a race, eat 90 minutes before you train. If you have a good workout afterward, try it a few more times to see if you can get consistent good performance results with that meal. If you get a bad result, move onto something else. In general, you want to be hydrated and eat foods rich in simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are digested rapidly so that energy can be delivered to the muscles. Complex carbohydrates consumed in the days leading up to the race will also enable your muscles to store extra glycogen which will also enhance performance. Proteins and fats are slower to digest. Eat too much of these on race day and you will have more e blood flowing to your stomach than the muscles and will likely feel sluggish. Experiment with amount as well as the kind of food. If you are too hungry when you race, you may feel weak or get an upset stomach.
2 – Never try something new on race day. Although my stomach is more sensitive than most, I have found this to be a disaster every time I have tried it!
3 – You may need a different diet and to eat different amounts of food to prepare for different races. I eat less when preparing for running races compared to a sprint triathlon or a swimming race. If you are doing a race that will take more than 90 minutes, it is prudent to replenish yourself with energy drinks and gels or light food along the way.
Below are some foods I prefer pre-race:
-English muffins, waffles, toast, bread, berries, grapes, bananas
Below are foods I consider too heavy to eat pre-race:
-bagels, oatmeal, pancakes, eggs, steak, bacon
Below are foods that upset my stomach pre-race:
-dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese), citrus fruits
Well I hope you are ready to begin your research. If you keep track of what works and what doesn’t, before you know it, you’ll have your own winning formula for a pre-race meal.