What to eat before a long run or a race

What to eat before a long run or a race

If you’re ready to push your limits, whether you’re preparing for a marathon, a race, or a challenging long run, there’s one crucial factor that can make or break your performance: fueling your body right. It’s a conundrum that many runners face, often resorting to a game of trial and error as they strive to find the perfect pre-run meal.

It’s vital to understand the foods to avoid before embarking on a long run. Greasy, heavy meals laden with unhealthy fats and excessive fiber are the enemies of optimal performance. These foods can leave you feeling sluggish and bloated. Instead, embrace the power of smart choices that will provide your body with the right amount of fuel to tackle any distance.

The long run requires endurance, stamina, and a well-nourished body. Your pre-run meal should consist of a blend of slow-digesting carbohydrates, quality protein, and healthy fats. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, such as quinoa or oatmeal, supply a steady release of energy, allowing you to maintain a consistent pace throughout your run. Combine this with lean protein sources like grilled chicken or tofu, aiding in muscle repair and development.

Top 5 run fuelling tips

Here are our 5 top tips:

1. Timing

1.5 to 2 hours before the event is optimal. Give yourself time to digest your food.

2. Food is fuel

Food is fuel – look for foods that are slow in releasing carbohydrates, these will keep you fuller for longer. My favourite is porridge with a drizzle of golden syrup. Oats are a great slow releasing carbohydrate and the golden syrup will act as a quicker releasing sugar to increase your energy ready for the start line.

3. Trial and error

During training, play around with a few different foods. See what works for you. Different people find different foods easier to digest than others. Once you figure out what works best for you do not change anything on the day of your race!!

4. Don’t overdo it

Stick to normal portion sizes, or just a little more than normal. There is nothing worse than feeling bloated, heavy and sluggish when running. Plus your muscles can only store 500-600g of carbs at one time.

5. Learn what foods to avoid before a run

Fibre and caffeine. Fibre is needed for the digestive system, but could potentially cause bloating and constipation. Caffeine is a laxative, and if you’re not used to it, it is definitely something to avoid. Depending on the length of the run I will alter what I eat and how much. This has come from years of working out what works for me.

Some ideas for pre long run food

Here are my go-tos for different length training runs. Remember that what works for me won’t necessarily work for you though!

Easy morning run less 40 minutes:

Light snack, e.g half a banana, or some greek yoghurt

A faster longer run, up to an hour:

Skyr yoghurt with a handful of granola

Long training runs over an hour:

Porridge cooked with milk and drizzled with honey or golden syrup to sweeten.

Use your training runs, not only to help improve your running, but also to help improve your pre race fuelling.

About the author

Sophie is a Level 2 & 3 qualified personal trainer and nutrition coach. Over the last 10 years Sophie’s training has been focused around running, swimming & cycling. She has completed numerous half marathon and marathon races as well as an Ironman 70.3. In the last few years Sophie’s training has been CrossFit based, however she still enjoys endurance training, specifically running.

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