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Fuel Your Body for an Endurance Event: Pre-Race Meal Do's and Don'ts

Fuel Your Body for an Endurance Event: Pre-Race Meal Do's and Don'ts

Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 5:49am
Fuel Your Body for an Endurance Event: Pre-Race Meal Do's and Don'ts

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Last week we looked at what to eat one week before your next endurance event and what did we learn? It’s all about balanced eating. Every. Single. Day. You should be eating a diet loaded with veggies and fruit, lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grains, and avoiding excess alcohol, sweets and junk food as much as possible.

Perhaps the most important meal you’ll eat when it comes to optimal sports nutrition is your morning-of meal. What you eat in the few hours leading up to your event is what will act as your immediate energy stores. The cleaner and easier to digest that meal or snack is, the better you’ll feel when it comes time to hit the pavement, trail or waterway.

Let’s keep this one simple. Here is your checklist of DOs and DON’Ts:

DO have a solid meal 3-4 hours ahead of time if it’s in the afternoon or evening (400-600 cal)

DO have a liquid or light meal 1-2 hours ahead of time if it’s in the morning  (100-200 cal)

DO make your pre-event snacks and meals high (complex) carb, low fat and low protein

DO drink lots of water. Have two 16-oz glasses of water (with lemon!) when you first wake up and chug it if you can (it tends to clear your digestive system more quickly that way) then take small sips until about 15-30 minutes before your start time.

DO experiment in advance to find foods agreeable to you individually (varies drastically from person to person).

MOARfit Nutrition Tip: use food journaling to keep track of what foods work best.

DON’T drink diuretics like coffee, tea and all caffeinated beverages UNLESS you’ve experimented (and succeeded) with using caffeine as a performance enhancer

DON’T overdo it on fiber--it can cause serious tummy upset

DON’T skip meals for events later in the day and don’t skip food altogether for morning events. It can be tough to eat early in the morning but it’s essential. If nothing else, try and get a banana and a small handful of nuts in your stomach before you walk out the door.

MOARfit Nutrition Tip: leave non-perishable pre-race eats on the counter the night before--and, while you’re at it, pre-fill a little water bottle, add a squeeze of lemon or lime and stick it in the fridge.

And here are a few ideas for what to eat on race day:

  • 1 piece of whole grain toast (I like Ezekiel bread) with a thin smear of natural almond or peanut butter and a drizzle of honey

  • 1 piece of whole grain toast with ¼ avocado mashed with a squeeze of lemon or lime and pinch of salt (citrus, somewhat counterintuitively, neutralizes stomach acid and salt is an essential electrolyte for endurance athletes)

  • A handful of dried fruit with a few nuts and bits of chocolate mixed in

  • 1 rice cake with a thin smear of goat cheese plus 1 oz smoked salmon or canned tuna and some capers

  • A fruit smoothie: 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 cup of your favorite frozen fruit, 1 frozen banana,  and 1 teaspoon chia seeds or ground flaxseed

In a nutshell, you’ve got to eat something before an endurance event to fuel your body for success. Keep it simple. Pick something easy-to-digest, with quick-fire energy carbs plus a little protein and healthy fat for any endurance activities that stretch beyond 60 minutes. And remember, I cannot emphasize enough that it’s so important to experiment in advance. Try different snack and meal combinations throughout your training program. Don’t get creative on game day!

About the Author

Amy Rizzotto, RYT-200, is a food and fitness loving blogger, yoga instructor, nutrition coach  and studio owner based in Washington, DC. Amy's passion is looking at the space where yoga and nutrition fuse for optimal athletic performance and overall mind/body wellness. Move Well DC  serves as her platform for sharing words of motivation, tasty recipes for health and workout tips. You can learn more about what she's up to by following her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @MoveWellDC.