From 5Ks to marathons to Tough Mudders and beyond, getting proper race-day nutrition is key to performing your best. Not only will you be more likely to nail a new PR, but you’ll probably feel better while doing it if you fuel up with the right foods on the frontend.
Proper race-day nutrition begins well before race day. Dialing in your hydration and nutrition several days, weeks or maybe months before the race can help ensure day-of success. It’s important to take note of what works and what doesn’t during training so when the big day arrives, you’ll know exactly how to fuel your body properly.
The night before the race
The night before the big race or event, make sure you’re hydrating well. This will supercharge day-of performance and decrease the likelihood of “bonks,” burnouts and the ever-feared GI issues. Don’t introduce any new foods into your diet the day before or the day of a race. Stick with what you know your body can effectively and happily digest. Some good options the night before a race are plant-based starches like sweet potatoes, greens, squash, beets and lean proteins like fish and poultry. Avoid booze and sugary foods. Celebrating too early can lead to severe race-day sluggishness — something no one wants!
If your race is more than 90 minutes long, it’s wise to have a hydration plan. This could be taking advantage of water stations throughout the race, carrying your own water bottle or wearing a hydration vest. Consider carrying powdered electrolytes as a supplemental boost, too. This simple trick could help bolster your energy levels and get you to the finish line feeling strong and fueled. A good rule of thumb is to drink 16-20 ounces of water per hour of exercise. (This rate can fluctuate depending on sweat rates and environmental conditions).
The day of the race
Fuel up with something simple and easy to digest about 90 minutes before game time. Nut butters, fruit and protein bars are great options. If you need some caffeine, a cup of coffee can give a nice added boost to your energy levels, too. If you’re embarking on a long run or an all-day strength event, then weaving in quickly-absorbed proteins, fats and carbohydrates during the race can be key to keeping your energy strong and consistent. Simple foods with a small amount of protein and fiber like white bread, bananas, honey and jam are good choices.
Once you cross the finish line, make sure you complete the day with powerful proteins to replenish your body. The first 30 minutes after a race are a great opportunity for supplementing all your hard work. Plan a post-race meal of lean protein and greens and you’ll begin paving the way for your next big endurance endeavor!