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What should I have to eat before races to make sure I have enough fuel, but not …too much?
Ah yes. The midrace bathroom break. As you practice immaculate LNT ethics, thoughts may run through your head: Was it the hamburger last night, maybe the coffee this morning or what about the gel you just had? It could be one or all of these things. Everyone has a different tolerance for specific foods, and anxiety itself can even trigger GI distress.
The point of this is not to scare you away from eating (PLEASE, do) but to encourage you to experiment and know that at some point, you will inevitably fail to fuel perfectly, and give yourself a chance to practice your cat hole technique.
Luckily, there are some guidelines that you can try and follow to see if you can come up with a good pre-race meal for yourself:
#1) Fuel Well the Week Of:
Ideally, you are going into your race with glycogen stores that overfloweth. Race week is not the time to cut back on calories and carbohydrates or try out that new juice cleanse. Instead of relying on the dinner and breakfast before your race for an epic carbo-load, think of the week before as a chance to eat a bunch of great, somewhat-epic meals.
#2) Energy Goal: 200-500 Calories
This will help top off your tank so that you can be ready when the gun goes off but will not be so much that it causes GI symptoms. Keep in mind, some may be able to tolerate more food, but once you start to run, the blood is diverted away from your digestive system to your working muscles making it a lot harder to break down a bigger amount of food.
#3) Protein: 15-20 Grams
This will help prevent too much of a blood sugar spike and drop and will allow for the body to preserve muscle a bit longer during the race. A dollop of nut butter is great, but we’re not aiming for gym-mirror selfie levels of protein here.
#4) Low Fiber/Low Fat:
An hour before you try to PR your 50k is not the ideal time to surprise your gut with a load of fiber. Sorry, avocado toast. Aim for simple carbohydrates like white rice, white bread, quick-cook oats, or waffles.
#5) Watch for Stomach Triggers:
You are a special, gastro-intestinal snowflake. What works for your gut may be different than the fresh, organic alpine berries that fuel Emelie Forsberg. That’s ok! Typical triggers for stomach upset are things like dairy, eggs, acidic juices, high fructose foods, and coffee. To minimize the risk of surprise GI distress, practice your race-day breakfast before key long-runs or workouts.
Try and eat a pre-race meal at least 2-3 hours before the race begins. If you are within an hour of your race, stick to something extra simple like the liquid calories in a smoothie or a simple PBJ.
SAMPLE PRE-RACE MEAL OPTIONS:
Bowl of White Rice
2T Peanut Butter
Glass of Almond Milk with a little bit of protein powder
2T Peanut Butter
1 T Maple Syrup
2T Peanut Butter
1 Glass Oat Milk with a little bit of protein powder
Do you have a question for our RDN? Send your trail-running-nutrition quandaries to email@example.com.
Kylee Van Horn is a licensed Sports Registered Dietitian and competitive trail runner.