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Fuel Your Run: Nutrition for Training and Racing

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Race Day

Morning of Race (Three Hours Out)

  • Eat a healthy breakfast of 400-600 calories. The trick is to top off your energy stores without eating something that will feel heavy in your stomach. Some good options: Oatmeal or cold cereal with low-fat milk, or half a bagel and some low-fat yogurt. Stick with what's familiar and has worked well for you in training.
  • Drink water to stay hydrated.
  • Avoid fatty foods that could make you feel nauseated, full, or lethargic. You don't want your body wasting energy on digesting something heavy.
  • If you're used to doing so, have a cup of coffee. Caffeine can make your run seem easier, but beware: it can also stimulate your digestive tract.

During the Race

  • Keep hydrated. It's a good idea to take a drink at every drink station, even if you don't feel thirsty -- especially on a hot day. However, it's important not to overhydrate. Hyponatremia is a rare but serious condition in which the body's natural balance of electrolytes is disturbed by too much fluid. Consider taking Gatorade or another electrolyte-replacement drink along with water to make sure you don't experience "water intoxication." If you feel nauseated, dizzy, or overtired, stop running and seek medical attention.
  • Maintain your blood-sugar levels. If you're running a long race (a half-marathon or longer), it's likely that some fueling stations along the route will offer energy gels containing carbohydrates and caffeine. This may be a good energy-replacement option for you if you've tolerated energy gels well in your training runs.

After the Race

  • Drink Gatorade or another sports drink to replace electrolytes, the sodium, and the potassium that you burned off during the race.
  • Eat a piece of fruit, some pretzels, or something with sugar to start stabilizing your blood sugar levels and aid recovery. You may not feel hungry after the race, but it is important to consume something -- even if it's just a sports drink -- to avoid fainting and aid recovery.
  • Avoid eating a huge meal immediately after the race. Your body has been taxed and overeating may nauseate you. So even if your family and friends want to treat you to a celebratory all-you-can-eat brunch, don't overindulge until you're sure you can stomach a large amount of food.
  • Go easy on the alcohol. You may be tempted to toast your new personal best with a couple of drinks, but be aware that alcohol causes dehydration and you may get drunk faster if you drink after a race. Keep drinking plenty of water.
  • Let your body recuperate. Stretch gently after the race, and consider booking a massage to help your taxed muscles recover. Consider your time on the table a reward for your effort!

Originally published on, September 2006.


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Jamiewins2 wrote:

I just drop a gel in my arm pocket ( and eat 1 since thats about all I can handle, it seams any more doesnt dgiest.

9/27/2012 01:51:46 PM Report Abuse
coburndangela5 wrote:

Im a little confused about what to eat if Im not able to eat the whole grains...we are following a Paleo diet due to autoimmune diseases. Whats the best source of carbs if we cannot have the grains?

3/10/2012 08:43:07 AM Report Abuse
heather.l.mereness wrote:

I really like to eat 4-6 pieces of sushi before I leave home & then a bananna on the way to the race. The sushi sits well on my stomach & is very healthy especially if you get the brown rice sushi.

10/13/2010 08:33:48 AM Report Abuse
anbay3 wrote:

Goo works great!

10/7/2010 10:18:58 AM Report Abuse
schonbie wrote:

I have a banana about an hour before exercise.

10/7/2010 10:12:44 AM Report Abuse

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