It can take a lot of trial and error in order to understand what foods work best for you ahead of a race or workout. Some people have less sensitive stomachs than others, whereas others need to keep their diet very basic ahead of a race. The most important thing is to understand what does and doesn’t work well for you. This can only be figured out by testing different meals and snacks.
Before reading this blog, it is important to understand that these foods are ones that work well for me and sit comfortably in my stomach whilst providing me with plenty of energy. They may not work for you, but they may give you some ideas as to what to try. It is also very personal at what time people like to last eat ahead of racing, but I will give you an idea of what I found to work for me.
In my eyes, a morning race is the easiest one to prepare for when it comes to food. This is because you only have one meal in your stomach ahead of it, meaning there is less sitting in your stomach that might cause disruption.
With a morning race, I don’t change anything. I do the majority of my sessions/runs in the morning, therefore I know my daily breakfast sits well without causing any discomfort. For me, this consists of toast with almond butter. I usually have granary, but ahead of a race I tend to go for white bread so it is digested a bit better. If I am feeling quite hungry, I will also have a banana, or I may save this until 2 hours before the race if the race is later in the morning or at lunchtime.
Timing example for a 10am race.
7am- Breakfast of toast and almond butter
8am- Banana if I feel I need something additional
Afternoon races can be the hardest to fuel for. They are not early enough that you can just have one meal, but they are not so late that you want two big meals sitting in your stomach. I therefore tend to have breakfast at a normal sort of time, which is relatively early, around 6.45/7. I’ll then have an early lunch and if needed a snack after that. For lunch I would opt for something such as avocado on toast with eggs or some chicken. Bread is my friend, and I know it sits well in my stomach, so this is a regular option for me. I tend to keep it pretty basic, so wouldn’t have any salad or greenery. You could also have a pasta dish, or anything that your stomach is familiar with but is not too fibrous.
Timing for a 4pm race.
With an evening race, they tend to be on the later side of the evening. As I would not eat dinner beforehand, I want to ensure I have eating plenty regularly throughout the day. I aim to have a slightly bigger lunch, but not as big as my usual dinner as I prefer to eat little and often in the afternoon leading into the race.
For me, it is important to focus on listening to my body and how it is feeling hunger wise. The pre-race food plan may change if I am hungrier than usual. It is important to listen to how I am feeling, as some days I may require more food in order to reach the start line feeling well-fuelled, and other days I may require slightly less. I always ensure that throughout the afternoon I have options incase I feel myself getting more hungry, but also options to scale it back if my stomach is not feeling very settled. It is all about learning to be in tune to what your body and stomach are telling you.
Timing example for 7.30pm race.
3.30/4- Bagel and nut butter
5.30- Banana or a cereal bar
This is just an insight into what I tend to eat ahead of a race. This is not always exactly what I do, but it gives a clear indication.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!