Day Race Fuel: What to Eat
Posted on September 20, 2019 in REV Wellness

By Sydney Richards, RD, LDN

Race season has arrived and whether it’s your very first one or you are a seasoned veteran, nutrition plays an important role in your running performance. The right balance of macronutrients (carbs, fat, and protein) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) can help you to minimize soreness, lower risk of injury, improve energy levels, and hit PRs!

If you’ve ever wondered if you should eat before a training run, the answer is yes! Studies show that a pre-workout meal or snack containing carbohydrates can boost physical performance. This is because the body relies almost exclusively on carbohydrates for energy. Although you can get carbohydrates from refined sources (things like sugar and white rice, pasta, and bread), this quick energy won’t last very long or provide many health benefits. It’s better to focus on carbohydrate-rich foods with more nutrients and fiber such as fruit, dairy, and whole grains.

Pre-workout meal ideas:

  • Peanut butter & banana or PBJ sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Greek yogurt with granola & fruit
  • Oatmeal made with low fat milk & fruit
  • Whole grain cereal with low fat milk & fruit

Pre-workout snack ideas:

  • Apple or banana with nut butter
  • Greek fruited yogurt
  • Granola bar
  • Whole grain rice cake with nut butter
  • Dried fruit & nuts

If you aren’t used to eating before a training run, make sure to time your pre-workout fuel so that you are neither hungry nor full before you start running. There is no hard and fast rule for this timing because everyone’s digestive system operates a little differently, however, some general guidelines are:

  1. If you have 1-3 hours before you plan to workout, aim for a meal.
  2. If you have 20-60 minutes before your scheduled workout, eat a snack.
  3. If you only have 10-20 minutes before your workout, try consuming a small amount of easily digestible, simple carbohydrates such as fresh or dried fruit. This will give you quick energy that your body can use right away.

Whatever you choose to do, try to be consistent – in other words, eat the same meal or snack every time, especially before long, training runs. This way there will be no “digestive surprises” on the day of your race. Also, try to avoid very high fat, high fiber foods as these take longer to digest and may cause stomach discomfort.

The night before your race, eat a balanced plate of food containing lean protein, vegetables, healthy fat, and, most importantly, carbohydrates (like whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or quinoa). This will help fill up those glycogen energy stores in your muscles to prepare you for the next day. Good luck out there runners!

Sydney Richards is a Registered Dietitian at the Under Armour Performance Center. She works with clients one-on-one, does grocery store tours, and performs micronutrient testing. To learn more about her services, you can email her at or follow her on Instagram at @eattoyourownbeet!

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