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    What to eat to excel on race day
    by Peggy Pletcher

      Tim was very hyped up for his very first race. On the morning of the race, he drank 1 gallon of orange juice and ate 6 pancakes with syrup, because he had heard that eating carbohydrates before a race was important. The race was in an hour. By the time the race started, Tim had such a stomach ache that he could not finish the race.

    What you eat before, during, and after a race certainly affects how you will do during the race. What to eat and when to eat it may seem confusing. However, the reality of what to eat is much simpler, and much more sensible, than many people think.

    Before the Race
    The weeks before a race, you should be focusing on eating enough food to meet your calorie requirements. Your diet should be high in carbohydrate (about 50-60% of your total calories) to fuel your body properly (refer to previous articles for discussions on fueling your body for exercise). Table 1 provides the number of grams of carbohydrate for various calorie levels.
    Sample meals include:

    Breakfast: 147 gram carb
    1 cup orange juice
    1 cup oatmeal
    2 small pancakes and syrup (1/4 c)
    1 cup skim milk
       102 grams carb
    1 banana
    1 cup bran flakes
    2 slices of wheat toast
    1 teaspoon margarine
    1 cup skim milk
    Lunch: 125 grams carb
    2 slices wheat bread
    4 ounces turkey
    2 tsp. Mayonnaise
    1 cup fruit juice
    1 1/3 cups frozen yogurt
       104 grams carb
    3 oz. wheat roll
    1 cup tuna
    2 tsp. Mayonnaise
    30 grapes
    2 cup skim milk
    Dinner: 130 grams carb
    3 cups pasta
    Tomato sauce with other veggies
    2 Tbl. Parmesan cheese
    2 oz. Part -skim cheese
    1 small slice French bread
    1 tsp. Margarine
    3/4 cups strawberries
       112 grams carb
    4 ounces fish
    I large baked potato (9 oz.)
    2 Tbl. Sour cream
    1 cup cooked veggies
    1 oz. dinner roll
    1 tsp. Margarine
    1.5 oz. box raisins
    1 cup skim milk

    Please note!!!! I made up these meals as examples! There is no special magic or mix to any of these meals, they are just good nutritious meals!

  • Adequate fluid intake is very important. Be sure to stay hydrated during training. A good way to tell if you are adequately hydrated is to check your urine. If you frequently urinate large volumes that are light in color, your probably drinking enough. If you do not urinate frequently or if your urine is dark colored, you may need to increase your fluid intake.

  • During your training, be sure to try out what you will eat and drink on the day of the race. Eat what you are planning to eat at the same time you plan to eat it on the day you are doing a distance run if you are training for a distance race (10K, half or full marathon, for example).

    The day Before the Race

  • Rest the day before an event, and focus on eating about 70% of your calories from carbohydrate.

  • Double your water intake.

  • Be sure you have everything you will need to eat and drink thought through and ready to go if the race is in the morning.

    During the Race

    • Be sure you eat only what you are used to the day of a race. This is no time to test out new foods. Always follows what works best for you. In general, avoid big meals 2-3 hours before an event. Small meals that are lower in fiber, fat and protein may be better tolerated. Within an hour of the race, snack on only those things that you know you can tolerate. Some people experience low blood sugar during a race if they eat very sugary things within one hour of racing. Others feel nauseated if they eat anything an hour or two before running.

    • Be sure to drink fluids frequently. Drink 2-3 cups of water 2 hours before the race; 1 Ĺ to 2 cups 15 minutes before; and 1 cup every 15 minutes during the race.

    • If your race will last over 60-90 minutes, drink fluids that contain carbohydrate and sodium. The carbohydrate will help provide energy during the race; the sodium may 1) help drive you to drink more, 2) taste better, and 3) promote fluid retention. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends drinks that contain 4-8% carbohydrate in the form of glucose, sucrose, or maltodextrins. Refer to table 2 for sports drinks information.

    After Exercise

    • Replenishing your fluid stores is a priority. The ACSM recommends that you drink a pint (2 cups) of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during your exercise bout. Check your urine for a day or two after the event to help you determine if you are hydrated.

    • What you eat after exercise is important, especially if you will begin training again soon. Your body replenishes its glycogen (carbohydrate) stores fastest if you eat food within two hours of exercise. A general rule of thumb is to eat .5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight within two hours and then again two hours later.

    • Replenishing the electrolytes lost during exercise is important, but can usually be accomplished with a balanced diet. Sodium almost never needs to be supplemented; Americans get plenty of sodium. Potassium is found in many foods including orange juice, bananas, potatoes, cantaloupe, yogurt and apricots.

    REMEMBER, you can make a difference in your performance by focusing on what you eat!! Good luck!!!!

    Table 1
    table 1

    Table 2

    For more information on Sports Nutrition...try these selected book titles!
    Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook
    order here!
    The Ultimate Sports Nutrition Handbook
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    Eat to Win : The Sports Nutrition Bible
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    Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition (The...
    order here!

    Peggy Pletcher is a registered dietitian with a Masterís degree in exercise physiology. She is a certified personal trainer and a certified diabetes educator.

    Do you have questions about other sports nutrition topics or ideas for future articles? Send your questions or suggestions to Peggy Pletcher here:

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