Build your ideal pre-run meal and win that race!

Feeding your body and brain with the right fuel could make or break your race. Eat right and you'll avoid a dodgy stomach, muscle spasms and cramps and keep your energy levels high. Feeling hungry can make even a race you've mastered before feel long and painful. There are a few rules to bear in mind when it comes to race-day nutrition, so you're energised and running your best all the way to that finish line!

We know that the needs of every runner are different and testing different strategies is a great idea, as it allows you to find out what works for your body - and what doesn't. So use your training runs to test out strategies and bear these tips in mind when it comes to race-day nutrition.

It's all about timing

When you eat is almost as important as what you eat. Eat too close to the start of your race and you could get cramps, feel bloated and start to feel heavy. Eat too early before your race and you risk running out of energy and feeling hungry part-way through. A good rule of thumb is to try and eat a light meal no less than an hour beforehand, with a small snack about 15 to 30 minutes before you start.

Fatten up

Did you know that fat contains more energy gram for gram than carbs? 1g of fat contains 9 calories, compared to just 4 calories per 1g of carbs. But we don't get the energy we need from fat fast enough during endurance running, as it takes the body longer to break down fat and convert it into energy - runners need energy, now! Eating too much fat before your race could leave you feeling heavy and your body will waste energy digesting it.

Protein to carb ratio

It's important to work out the right carb to protein ratio to allow your body to maximise the energy it gets from food. Our bodies crave carbs as a source of energy and protein to repair our muscles. Most people will benefit from a carb-to-protein ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 (1). That means that your meal should contain roughly three to four times as many carbs as it does protein!

Know your carbs

Both simple and complex carbs are needed by your body for that marathon or long run. You'll find simple carbs in fruit like dates and bananas - these release instant energy for a boost at the start of your race. Complex carbs are absorbed more slowly by the body and are found in foods such as sweet potatoes, rice, bread and oats. These are what's needed to boost those energy levels further on in a race when you're starting to flag, as they're digested more slowly!

Be fussy about fibre

Fibre is great for your digestion, but go easy on the whole-grain and high-fibre foods on race day. Needing the loo or having a dodgy tummy during your race is never fun!

Frontload on electrolytes

What are electrolytes? They're minerals which occur naturally in body fluids and they help our muscles to function properly. You'll lose electrolytes through sweating and so it's important to replenish them to maintain the body's levels - this can help to prevent cramping and stomach issues. Coconut water or some salty snacks on race day (don't overdo it) can help your body to cope.

Build your pre-race meal

So what should you be eating on race day? We've gathered together some of the best foods, divided into groups. Just pick one food from each of the below categories to build your meal! Nutritional values are from the USDA National Nutrition Database for Standard Reference, so may vary slightly.


1 slice white bread - 77 cals, 14g carbs, 1g fat, 3g protein, 1g fibre, 142mg sodium

1 slice wholemeal bread - 81 cals, 14g carbs, 1g fat, 4g protein, 2g fibre, 146mg sodium,

1 plain medium bagel - 277 cals, 55g carbs, 1g fat, 11g protein, 2g fibre, 443mg sodium

1 medium baked sweet potato - 103 cals, 24g carbs, 0g fat, 2g protein, 4g fibre, 41mg sodium

1 packet plain instant porridge - 150 cals, 27g carbs, 2.5g fat, 7g protein, 4g fibre, 41mg sodium

1 cup coconut water - 46 cals, 9g carbs, 0.5g fat, 2g protein, 3g fibre, 252mg sodium


2 tbsp peanut butter - 191 cals, 7g protein, 16.57g fat, 7g carbs, 2g fibre, 136mg sodium

2 tbsp almond butter - 106 cals, 7g protein, 18g fat, 3g fibre, 6g carbs, 73mg sodium

1 slice bacon - 54 cals, 4g protein, 4g fat, 0g carbs, 0g fibre, 194mg sodium

2 tbsp hummus - 50 cals, 2g protein, 3g fat, 4g carbs, 2g fibre, 114mg sodium

High-glycogen fruit

1 medium banana - 105 cals, 27g carbs, 0g fat, 1g protein, 3g fibre, 1mg sodium

1 Medjool date - 66 cals, 18g carbs, 0g fat, 0g protein, 2g fibre, 0mg sodium

1 medium apple - 95 cals, 25g carbs, 0g fat, 0g protein, 4g fibre, 2mg sodium

1oz raisins - 85 cals, 0g fat, 22g carbs, 1g protein, 1g fibre, 3mg sodium

The skinny

There are some foods you should definitely avoid on race day:

  • Acidic juice such as orange or grapefruit
  • Spicy foods
  • High-fibre foods
  • Too much caffeine
  • Fatty foods
  • Alcohol
  • Large servings of protein and carbs

And some foods you should try to include as part of your race-day meal or snacks:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Carrots
  • Bananas
  • Kale
  • Almonds
  • Greek Yoghurt
  • Quinoa
  • Salmon
  • Porridge

You can get more tips on running training on the fitness page of our blog, check out some of our healthy recipes or even hire a personal trainer to help you achieve those running goals - you'll find plenty to choose from in our directory! Fuelling your body the right way could mean the difference between crossing the finish line as a winner or failing to make it at all - so fuel up and get ready to run your best race yet!

READ THIS NEXT: Run a stress-free marathon with these 6 tips

Works cited:


Author By Paula Beaton
Date On 29th Apr 2015 at 12:52

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