Most marathons are held during the early morning hours when temperatures are mild. Although not always necessary, eating breakfast prior to a race can be quite beneficial, especially if your run covers a distance of 5 miles (8K) or more. But this can be somewhat of a challenge, as you have to choose foods that boost your energy levels without filling you up and wearing you down.

Whatever the case may be, when eating beforehand, there are certain tips you should follow to ensure that your chosen meal supports your run instead of hindering it.

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

Opt for Whole Grain Foods

When it comes to your pre-race breakfast 100% whole grain cereals or breads are excellent choices for maintaining steady energy over an extended period of time. You can 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 grain foods are extremely high in fiber and relatively low in calories, they tend to fill you up without leaving you feeling sluggish.

Related Article: How Different Types of Fiber Affect Your Health

Take in a Few Egg Whites

For a healthy, portable pre-race breakfast, simply boil a few eggs and discard the yolks. While egg yolks are extremely rich in nutrients, egg whites alone are an excellent source of high-quality protein suitable for consumption prior to a race. Since egg whites are exceptionally low in calories (around 16 per egg), free of cholesterol, and virtually fat free, you can eat several at a time. Egg whites are also naturally lactose-free making them the perfect choice if you’re lactose intolerant.

Related Article: Nutrition Basics: Your Daily Protein Intake

Choose Potassium-Rich Fruits

All fruits contain simple carbohydrates that can provide you with a quick burst of energy without a subsequent crash, but fruits containing potassium have added benefits when consumed before a race. Potassium plays a critical role in muscle contraction during running but large quantities are lost in sweat, which increases the likelihood of muscle cramping and other discomforts. You can avoid this by eating a small banana, half of an avocado or half a cup of dried apricot prior to your race.

Related Article: The Best Time to Eat Fruit

Have a Protein Bar or Shake

Whenever you’re in doubt about what to eat before a race, protein bars and shakes are great go-to choices. Opt for products that are less than 200 calories with at least 15 grams of protein and less than 10 grams of sugar. Try Promax, Pure Protein or Twinlab Clean Series products as a start. Each of these brands offer a wide range of tasty bars and shakes many of which are suitable for vegetarians. You can also make your own protein shake by blending a cup of Greek yogurt with fresh berries and/or green veggies like spinach.

RECIPE: Oatmeal Raisin Protein Cookies

Regardless of the foods you choose, be sure to eat 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