3 Tips to Fuel Your Body on Race Day
Updated: Aug 29
By Stephanie Jameson - You’ve broken in your running shoes, your long runs are feeling more manageable, and the Malibu Half Marathon is drawing nearer - you may find yourself beginning to wonder, “What am I supposed to eat on race day?” Luckily we’ve got three tips to help you figure out how to fuel your body properly!
1. Nothing New on Race Day
You may have heard the saying: “Nothing new on race day.” This goes for shoes, apparel, and definitely for food.
Your race day fueling plan should actually begin weeks before the event - every run is an opportunity to see how your body reacts to different foods.
Some people find that their body doesn’t do well with the packaged carbohydrate gels and snacks commonly handed out on courses.
Therefore, don't wait until race day to find out and don’t bring something else to snack on, or you might be in for some trouble!
In the days leading up to the race, you should also stick with foods you know your body
processes well and avoid any foods you know can cause you bloating or discomfort.
2. The Two “C’s”: Carbs and Caffeine
Carbohydrates are a runner’s best friend because they are the nutrients most readily utilized for energy. A good race day breakfast consists of easily digested carbohydrates as well as a bit of protein and fat to keep you feeling full.
Some good breakfast options are oatmeal topped with almond butter, or whole wheat toast with peanut butter and blueberries.
On the course you’ll be provided with Honey Stinger gels for energy and Gatorade Endurance as your sports drink option. If you prefer a vegan option you can bring with yourself blocks, pretzels, or more natural options like dates and other dried fruits.
Caffeine has been shown in some studies to improve athletic performance, but if you aren’t a
regular caffeine consumer the day of the race is not a good time to start.
If you are going to caffeinate for the race, don’t consume any more than you’ve practiced on long runs, drink it in the same form you’re used to (black coffee is ideal) and if you’ll be on the course longer than a couple of hours make sure you prepare for the inevitable energy drop by consuming a bit more on the course (usually in the form of caffeinated gels or blocks).
3. Schedule Your Water and Food to Avoid Hitting “The Wall”
You have to stay ahead of the game with your fuel to make sure you don’t get depleted. Sip on water before the race: aim to consume 16 to 20 ounces before you start, then another 8 to 16 ounces each hour during the event.
Because everyone’s hydration needs are different, it’s best to grab water and take a couple of sips at each aid station, but if you feel full or like you have to force it down it’s okay to skip and grab water the next chance you get.
If you are fueling with food during the race, know when you will be eating so you can stay ahead of any issues. Split your carbohydrate needs into 30 or 45 minutes and eat accordingly.
The general rule of thumb is to eat 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour of activity. If your practices during long runs have shown you that need 60 grams of carbs per hour, aim to eat 30 grams every half hour or 45 grams every 45 minutes.
After the race, be sure to refuel with water and a solid meal packed with carbohydrates and
protein to help replenish your taxed muscles.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi, I’m Stephanie! I’m a runner, triathlete, and owner of giveStrength - a corporate wellness company. I hold a certificate in plant based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at Cornell University, as well as a personal training certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
I coach runners, triathletes, and anyone else that needs help to feel stronger, eat better, and feel confident in their body.
Follow my journey @giveasweat.