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Pre-Race Power Meals for Runners

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Your Pre-Race Nutrition Strategy

Indulge in high-carb dinners starting two nights before your race. "You want a meal that's 50 to 60 percent carbs, is easily digested, and won't upset your stomach," says Lauren Antonucci, RD, director of Nutrition Energy in New York City. Sick of spaghetti? Test-drive these dishes from top chefs while training and see if one revs you up better than your usual heap of noodles.

Capellini with Chicken, Broccoli, and Pecorino Cheese

"I always eat a bowl of pasta, like this capellini recipe, whether I have a half-marathon or a 53-mile bike race the next day," says Thom Fox, executive chef at Public House and three-hour marathoner.

Makes: 4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces boneless skinless chicken thigh meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated or minced very fine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried) thyme, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups broccoli, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 8 ounces capellini pasta
  • 4 tablespoons pecorino cheese, freshly grated
  • Salt to taste


  1. Heat olive oil in a nonstick pan. Add chicken and cook over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes, until lightly browned. Add garlic and thyme and cook 30 seconds more. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.
  2. Add broccoli to pan and saute for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup hot water and cover. Cook about 4 minutes, until broccoli is slightly soft. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.
  3. Add chicken to broccoli and remove pan from heat. When pasta is done, drain and add to pan. Stir and sprinkle with cheese.

Nutrition facts per serving: 415 calories, 30g protein, 53g carbohydrate, 10g fat (2g saturated), 6g fiber

No Cream-No Cry Penne Alla Vodka

"This dish, from my new book, Now Eat This! 150 of America's Favorite Comfort Foods All Under 350 Calories, is just as good as the original," says FITNESS advisory board member Rocco DiSpirito, who completed the 2009 Ironman World Championship 70.3.

Makes: 4 servings


  • 8 ounces whole wheat penne
  • 2 cups low-fat marinara sauce
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1 7-ounce container 2 percent Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions, about 9 minutes; drain.
  2. While pasta is cooking, bring marinara sauce and crushed red pepper to simmer in a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Cook sauce, stirring it occasionally with a heat-resistant rubber spatula, until it is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove saute pan from heat.
  3. Stir about 1/2 cup marinara sauce into yogurt until smooth (this prevents yogurt from curdling). Then whisk yogurt mixture back into saute pan with remaining sauce.
  4. In a large bowl, toss sauce with drained penne and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheese on top.

Nutrition facts per serving: 320 calories, 18g protein, 55g carbohydrate, 4.8g fat (2g saturated), 6g fiber

Mussels with Saffron-Wine Broth and Penne

"This recipe, from my book Cooking from the Hip, is packed with flavor and lasting energy," says Cat Cora, star of Food Network's Iron Chef America and a longtime runner.

Makes: 4 servings


  • 1 large leek trimmed of all green portions, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 pounds mussels, cleaned
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups fish broth or bottled clam broth
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 ounces penne (about 2 cups)
  • Pinch saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest


  1. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leek and wine and bring mixture to simmer. Add mussels and cover.
  2. Lift lid after 2 minutes. Use tongs to remove any opened mussels and set aside in a bowl. Cover and cook another minute, then remove opened mussels and discard the rest.
  3. Continue cooking leek until it's very soft and wine has evaporated. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add fish broth; cook about 5 minutes, until liquid is reduced by about half. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and pasta; cook until tender.
  4. Remove mussels from shells and chop coarsely. Add back to pan, and add saffron.
  5. Drain pasta; add to mussels, raise heat to medium high, and cook 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Garnish with parsley and lemon zest.

Nutrition facts per serving: 358 calories, 28g protein, 43g carbohydrate, 5g fat (1g saturated), 2g fiber

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, March 2010.