The holidays are here, and the calendar is loaded with a slew of fun seasonal races, from turkey trots to ugly sweater 5Ks to Christmas light runs and more! As a health coach who supports active men, women and families, I’m sharing the most commonly asked questions regarding what to eat before, during and after a holiday 5K.
Do I need to carb load before my 5K?
The short answer to this one is: nope!
Here’s the longer answer: Unless you are dramatically cutting out carbohydrates, skipping meals or if you have a medical condition, you have plenty of fuel reserves to power you through 3.1 miles. The day before your 5K, choose foods that are familiar to you for predictable digestion and energy. And remember the rule of “Nothing New.” There’s plenty of risk and not a lot of benefit to trying new foods in the 24 hours leading up to your race, so hold off on more adventurous eating until after you cross that finish line.
What should I eat for breakfast before a 5K?
Before a race, choose a breakfast that you’ve eaten before to eliminate any risk of stomach upset. Most runners and walkers will opt to avoid foods high in fiber, protein or fat, since they are slow to digest and can cause GI issues. Runners will also want to eat their breakfast at least an hour before the start of the event so digestion is well underway by the time they begin.
Examples of breakfasts that provide energy include oatmeal and a banana, or toast with a tablespoon (or less) of natural peanut butter. If you’re pressed for time and have less than a half hour before your 5K, you might opt for a smaller snack, like a banana, a few dates or a cup of natural applesauce.
Do I need to drink a sports drink before or during my 5K?
Probably not. Unless you’re diabetic or hypoglycemic (or have another medical condition that impacts your blood sugar), there’s no need to pound a carb-heavy sports drink. Those drinks may be helpful in providing fuel and electrolytes for runs longer than an hour, but are certainly not necessary for a 5K.
How many calories do I burn during a 5K and what does that earn me at the big meal?
Depending on your size and speed, you’ll likely burn somewhere between 250 – 475 calories during a 5K. However, I encourage you to focus on the awesome benefits of a 5K that go far beyond the calorie burn:
- Exercise is an amazing stress reducer, and we could all use a little support in that area during the holiday.
- It feels good to participate in an event that brings out your community (and maybe even supports a local charity).
- You strengthened your heart and legs over those miles
- Family participation in a holiday run or walk may foster a new fitness habit for life! The turkey trot and jingle bell run have inspired many new walkers and runners to exercise more consistently, building better long term health
- Simply put, a 5K is a fun way to spend time with family or friends!
If you need support in building new healthy habits to for a happy and active 2017, ask a professional like me for support. Here’s wishing you a fun holiday 5K run or walk, and a wonderful season!
About The Author: Lauren Shafer
Lauren is a certified Health Coach who helps busy Baltimoreans articulate their health + wellness goals, and make measurable, sustainable diet and lifestyle changes for lasting transformation. Though she would never be described as athletic in her youth, Lauren started running as an adult, begrudgingly at first, until she discovered she actually enjoyed it. Now an 9-time marathoner and 3-time ultra-marathoner, you’ll frequently find Lauren running on roads and trails with her husband John and dog Osita.