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Fueling Your Run: What to Eat Before a Race

Marathon races are generally held during the early morning hours when temperatures are mild. If you’re a breakfast eater, this can be a real challenge, as you have to choose foods that boost your energy levels without filling you up and wearing you down. Although not always necessary, eating breakfast prior to a race can be beneficial, especially if you’re running long distances like a half or full marathon.

Whatever the case may be, there are certain foodstuffs you can choose to ensure your chosen pre-race meal supports your run instead of hindering it.

Related Article: Getting Off the Couch and Into a 5K

Choose Whole Grain Foods

When it comes to your pre-race breakfast 100 percent whole grain cereals or breads are excellent choices for maintaining steady energy over an extended period of time. Opt for a bowl of oatmeal with fruit or spread your favorite nut butter on a slice of whole grain bread or a whole wheat English muffin. Since whole grains are extremely high in fiber and low in calories, they tend to fill you up without leaving you feeling sluggish.

Related Article: The Real Nitty-Gritty on Whole Grain Foods

Guzzle a Mean Green Smoothie

Downing a leafy green-dense smoothie is an excellent way to fuel your body prior to a race. Leafy green veggies are remarkably potent sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants generally suppress excess production of free radicals during long-distance running. Free-radical build up can impair healthy blood flow and adversely affect running performance. Taking in a hefty dose of liquefied leafy greens is a great line of defense.

RECIPE: Deliciously Rich Spinach, Kiwi and Chia Seed Smoothie

Opt for Potassium-Rich Fruits

All fruits contain simple carbohydrates that can provide you with a quick burst of energy without a subsequent crash. But, fruits like banana, avocado, kiwi, cantaloupe, and dried apricots are naturally high in potassium, which is especially beneficial for pre-race nutrition. Potassium plays a key role in muscle contraction and helps reduce muscle cramping during running. A serving or two of potassium-rich fruit is all you need.

Related Article: The Best Time to Eat Fruit

Grab a Handful of Nuts or Seeds

Nuts and seeds are convenient, versatile sources of countless nutrients needed by runners, including protein, B vitamins, and electrolyte minerals. Many varieties like almonds, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds are especially high in the powerful antioxidant vitamin E. Vitamin E has been shown to improve the body’s ability to transport and deliver oxygen through the blood to the exercising muscles that continuously need it.

RECIPE: Perfect Peanut Butter and Banana Protein Muffins

Eat a Few Boiled Egg Whites

For a quick, portable pre-race breakfast, simply boil a few eggs and limit yourself to one whole egg with the yolk. In and of themselves, eggs are packed full of nutrients and incredibly filling. The egg yolk is rich in antioxidants while the whites are an excellent source of high-quality protein. Eggs are also dairy and lactose-free making them the perfect choice if you have sensitivities.

Related Article: Nutrition Basics: Your Daily Protein Intake

Enjoy Some Coffee or Green Tea

You can greatly improve your race performance by enjoying a cup of coffee or green tea an hour or two in advance. Due to their rich content of caffeine, phenols, and other micronutrients, sipping these drinks prior to running can greatly boost your energy levels and delay the onset of fatigue allowing you to run more intensely and for longer periods of time. Personally, drinking a cup of coffee has become a pre-race ritual for me—I never eat first!

Related Article: Why You Should Drink at Least One Cup of Coffee Every Day

And there you have it—Six quick and convenient options for pre-race nutrition.

Regardless of the foods you choose, be sure they’re consumed at least 1-2 hours before your race. Not doing so can lead to uncomfortable symptoms of indigestion like abdominal cramps, bloating or nausea. In addition to following these tips for choosing pre-race breakfast foods, it’s also important to maintain adequate fluid intake, as hydration is critical for optimal performance during any race.

Related Article: Why Water is More Important Than Food

Learn what it takes to achieve and maintain good health through weight control. Pick up a copy of Leaving Your Fat Behind.

Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a physician for advice.

Before starting an exercise training program you should first make sure that exercise is safe for you. If you are under the age of 55 years and generally in good health, it is probably safe for you to exercise. However, if you are over 55 years of age and/or have any health problems, be sure to consult with your physician before starting an exercise training program.


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