The phrase ‘pre-race fuel’ makes most runners think of one thing: pasta. Delicious bowls of steamy, noodle-y carbohydrate goodness to fuel your muscles through your half or full marathon. Consuming carbs is important in the days leading up to a distance race, but you certainly don’t have to eat pasta every night. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re preparing your meals the week of your race.
When you eat a very carbohydrate-rich meal, the majority of the carbs are stored as glycogen in your liver for later use. When you’re working out (or pushing through your mileage on race day), your body is able to pull energy from your glycogen stores to keep you going. Glycogen is perhaps the easiest form of stored energy for your body to access.
Try to select carbohydrate options that are low in fiber, because high amounts of fiber can cause digestive problems for many athletes. Prior to a race, opt for white rice instead of brown, and save the whole wheat pasta for a post-race meal. Tired of the same old pasta? Try one of these low-fiber carb options for race week: white rice, bananas, yogurt, peeled white potatoes, white bread or white flour English muffins.
Make sure that you get plenty of protein pre-race. Protein will allow your muscles to effectively recover after your training sessions so that you’re ready on race day. It’s particularly important to eat a protein-rich meal within an hour following a strength training session, so that your body has fuel to rebuild. Opt for lean sources of protein, like chicken breast. Here are a few of our faves: tilapia, turkey breast, tofu and eggs.
Eat Familiar Foods
The days before a race are not the time to experiment with new and exciting foods. Stick to foods that you know will make you feel great. Some runners feel fantastic the day after a big pasta feed, while it leaves others feeling bloated and sluggish. Play around with your diet (when you’re not prepping for a race) to figure out what foods and meals make you feel and perform the best.
While you don’t want to gain weight, the days before a race are not the time to try to lose a few pounds. Make sure that you’re getting enough calories so that your body has plenty of fuel. Making sure that you’re getting plenty to eat before your race will help ensure that your body has energy to charge through the finish line. If you feel like you’re having a hard time getting enough calories to compensate for the mileage you’re logging, try snacking on healthy, calorie-dense foods like raw nuts and full fat Greek yogurt throughout the day.