Fuel Your Run: Nutrition for Training and Racing
Race DayMorning 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.
- 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.
- 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 FitnessMagazine.com, September 2006.
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