Race Day Fueling

Contributed by MIT Sports Dietician Dawn Holmes MS, RD, CSSD, LD

It’s almost race time!  Take advantage of your long runs to practice what to eat and drink before, during and after your race.  Knowing what works for you before the big day is important for a successful race.

Before the race:

Start with breakfast so you’re not running on empty.  It’s often several hours between waking and racing.  Choose foods you’ve eaten before a long run that include carbohydrates and some protein. Keep hydrated with 8-20 ounces fluids; know what amount is comfortable for you. 

  • Toast with nut butter and a banana
  • Oatmeal with berries and nuts. 

Eat a final carbohydrate snack 15 – 30 minutes prior to the start. 

  • Sips of sports drink
  • Gel, pretzels, graham crackers, or fruit

During the race:

Each hour consume between 30-90 grams of carbohydrate (the higher end for marathon distances and faster runners) and about 18-24 ounces of fluids.  Your fluid intake will vary - the hotter the day, the more you’ll need to drink - and not just water, use an electrolyte drink to help compensate for sweat losses.

Do these early and often to stay on top of your fueling and avoid ‘The Wall’.  Try drinking every 15-20 minutes, 3-4 mouthfuls.  About 45 minutes into the race, add carbohydrates (10-20 grams).  Repeat every 20-30 minutes.  This may seem a lot of fuel for some folks, so try it out on a long run and see how it works.  Make adjustments each run until it’s the best formula for you. 

For example:

  • Start at 45 minutes or 4 miles (1 gel + 3-4 mouthfuls of water)
  • Repeat in 20 minutes or 2 miles (gel + water)

Recovery Celebration:

You did it!!  Congratulations!  Finish your race with solid recovery fuel so you can move easier the next day.  Chocolate milk is perfect and readily available at most races.  Shoot for 20-24 ounces to get the carbs, protein, electrolytes, and fluids you need.  Ideally look for 20-30 grams of protein and 60-80 grams of carbohydrates.  Enjoy a meal within a couple hours of your race.  Get the food and fluids in first, then you can look for the celebratory alcohol. 

Dawn Holmes is a Sports Dietitian and Owner of Real Life Fuel, LLC.  She enjoys creating personalized sports nutrition strategies for athletes of all abilities.  She put her fueling into practice and ate gels every 2 miles during the Columbus Half.  Dawn@RealLifeFuel.com

Race Day Fueling More Info »

Connect With Us

see the latest from Fleet Feet + FrontRunner