If you’re running the BWC 5K—or any 5K—what you eat and drink in the 24 hours leading up to your race can set you up for a victorious day, whether you’re aiming for a personal best or just a fun time on the course.
You may have heard you should avoid wearing new shoes on race day to avoid blisters or unexpected chafing, but did you know the same principle applies to food choices? In the 24 hours preceding your race, the most important piece of advice I give to my clients is “Nothing New!”
Eating familiar foods leads to predictable fuel and digestion, which is exactly what you want leading up to race day. The risk of eating a meal that doesn’t agree with you by trying something new outweighs any possible benefit, so save the visit to that new food truck or that cool Ethiopian restaurant for after the race.
With a June race in Baltimore, there’s a 99.9% chance it’s going to be hot and steamy. Proper hydration begins long before you hit the starting line, so you’ll want to begin drinking plenty of water in the days before the event. The best indicator of adequate hydration is the color of your urine: It should be a very light yellow, though not completely clear. It’s not necessary to consume sports drinks or other fancy concoctions to stay hydrated: Plain water is an effective and healthful choice.
Race Eve Dinner
Enjoy dinner earlier in the evening to allow plenty of time for digestion. There’s no nutritional benefit to carb loading before a 5K, but a reasonable serving of foods rich in carbohydrates is a fine choice for race eve meal: Think one cup of cooked pasta or rice, a potato the size of your closed fist, or a sandwich, and add your favorite protein and a vegetable to your meal. Avoid heavy creamy or greasy foods that could make you feel heavy or bloated in the morning. Though fiber is a very important part of your diet, many runners cut back on fibrous vegetables and whole grains the night before a race to avoid GI issues as well. Whatever you choose for dinner, keep the “Nothing New” principle in mind.
Breakfast Race Morning
Both the content and the timing of breakfast on race day are equally important. Chomping down a bagel at the start line may be convenient, but eating so close to your run means A. Your breakfast won’t be converted to fuel during your race, and B. Your body will need to divert blood to digestion at a time when you also need blood going to your leg muscle. Eating breakfast a couple hours before the race will allow for some of the toughest work of digestion to occur and will also give you enough time use the bathroom after eating.
During your training, you should have identified a simple breakfast that provides you with energy but is light enough not to leave you feeling weighed down. Classic breakfasts before a 5K include…
- A couple pieces of sourdough bread or toast with a smear of nut butter on each slice
- Oatmeal with fruit
- A small bagel with a banana
You’ll want to avoid foods with lots of fiber, protein or fat right before a run, since they take longer to digest and won’t provide you with immediate fuel. It’s a smart idea to include water with breakfast, but there’s no need to pound bottles of water in the minutes before your race. Sip on water leading up to the start if you choose.
What About Caffeine?!
Caffeine can give you a performance boost, but it can also cause GI issues. Proceed with caffeinated beverages only if you’ve experimented with them before a run and know how they will impact your gut!
Join us on Race Day!
Sunday, June 24th is the Baltimore Women's Classic 5K! Register in-store at a packet pick-up this week or sign up online by clicking below.
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 4-time ultra-marathoner, you’ll frequently find Lauren running on roads and trails with her husband John and dog Osita.