Getting all the necessary training isn’t a guarantee of race-day success; it’s important to also nail down the other elements of your preparation. This includes your pre-race nutirtion. Here are some principles to consider:
1 Eat early. You want to give your body time to process your food so that you can eliminate waste in the morning before you head out the door. That way you won’t feel heavy and ubncomfortable while you’re running. Aim to have dinner by 6 p.m.
2. Don’t over-eat. For the same reason that you want to eat early, you’ll want to avoid overstuffing yourself. Many people have heard the phrase “carb loading” and assume that means you want to load in as much food as possible before a long training session or race. Carb loading is a very specific technique used by elite athletes in which glycogen stores are depleted through intense exercise, followed by a carb overload.
This deplete and overload approach theoretically forces the body to store more carbs as fuel – glycogen – than usual, meaning more fuel will be available in the race. Simply overeating without the earlier depletion won’t produce these results; it will only risk having that food still with you when you head out the door in the morning. Also, for our purposes (and for many elite runners, too), enduring the depletion phase isn’t worth the extra fuel boost.
Bottom line: plan to eat a relatively light meal early, and have a light snack before bedtime (such as a piece of fruit or an energy bar).
3. Eat carb-rich foods. Give your body food that it can easily easily convert into fuel and store. Carbs fit the bill. Pasta is a traditional choice, but any grain-based food will work well, too, such as rice. Vegetables, whether cooked or fresh, are a good choice, but should not be the centerpiece of your Last Supper, since they aren’t calorie-dense enough to provide enough fuel for your body (though potatoes and other tubers are closer to meeting those needs).
Because you’re eating early, you can also plan to have a moderate amount of protein with your meal, such as chicken, fish, or beef. Protein is harder to digest, though, so if you eat a big thick steak, you run the risk of having it accompany you on your training session or race the next day. Eat protein, but eat it moderately.
4. Avoid foods you haven’t tried before, especially exotic dishes. You don’t have to eat bland, but don’t be adventurous. Save that for the dinner afterwards.
So what’s the perfect meal? You can find that out for yourself through trial and error, but here are some that have worked well for me:
- Chicken breast over ziti with tomato sauce, green salad, roll
Broiled fillet of fish over rice, with cooked vegetables.
- Lasagna and salad
- Turkeywith stuffing/mashed potatoes, cooked vegetables
- Veggie pizza.