4 nutrition tips to help you race at your best

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Every runner has a mantra for race day. Most mantras (“don’t give up” or “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”) are uttered to inspire greatness. But no matter how fast you want to go, or how hard you might train to get there, if you don’t have the right fuelling plan, no amount of self-talk will power you over that finish line. 

In preparation for your next race, follow these tips and achieve those goals.

1/ Nothing new on race day

Nutrition experts, newbies and elites have all fallen victim to the mistake of trying new foods in the hours leading up to (or during) a race. The mistake is easy to make, especially if you’re travelling to a new city and you want to try the local cuisine. But save the adventure for post-race celebrations. 

Be prepared. Pack your tried-and-true snacks and fuel, and don’t change up your nutrition plan during the race. That means same using the same brand and flavour of mid-run fuel you tested during training. 

READ: 6 simple tips for fuelling before and during a race

2/ Train with what’s on the course

Similar to not trying anything new on race day, it’s important to train with the nutrition that will be on the course if you’re not bringing your own. Races offer certain brands and flavours of sports drinks and often make that information known beforehand, allowing you to try it out during training. 

Why do we keep beating home this fact? If your body tries something new (while in motion!) it can mess with your stomach and send you running for the portable toilets.

Forgot your fuel? There’s a good chance a local running store or the race expo will have it. 

READ: Sports drinks vs. energy gels

3/ Water, water, everywhere

Race weekend can be busy, and before you know it, you’ve spent too much time on your feet sightseeing and not enough time hydrating. Keep a water bottle close at hand and sip on fluids throughout the day. Water alone and with electrolytes, and sports drink are all good choices. 

Your urine colour is a simple, effective way to tell how hydrated you are. It should be light yellow; clear means you drank too much and dark means you need to drink more.

READ: 5 ways to stay hydrated during a long run

4/ You are what you eat

Food consumed in the 12 to 24 hours before a race has a major impact on your fuel status. Your night-before meal should be low in fat, moderate in protein, high in carbs and mimic the types of foods you’ve been eating before long runs. 

Breakfast the morning of your race will top-off your glycogen stores and complement the gels and chews you’ll consume later down the road. Aim for familiar foods and do some (simple) maths to have a meal with .5 grams of carb per pound of body weight for every hour before the race. Confused? Here’s an example: If you weigh 130 pounds, you get up at 5 am to eat, and gun time is at 7 am, aim for a breakfast that has 130 grams of carbs (follow this schedule in training a few times to prepare your body). 

Try a bagel topped with a small amount of peanut butter and sliced banana with a side of sports drink. Head to the start line prepared with snacks for races that have long waiting times.

READ: Pre-race breakfasts