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The Food Before You Race

The NB 5th Ave Mile

Tis the season to PR and run as fast as you can. And anyone who has tried running a race with a belly full of chocolate milkshake knows that what you eat before your exercise can impact your performance and how you feel. So let’s talk about the idea pre-exercise snack.


Eat two hours before you workout or race.

This may seem like a long window for some, but two hours gives the body enough time to break down the food source, move it through the digestive track (so you don’t have that unpleasant “full” feeling while running), and extract energy from the food (so you, you know, feel energized).

If you feel a little peckish in the thirty minutes before your competition, you can choose a very simple carb source such as a banana, some raisins or some maple syrup.


Eat mostly carbs, with a little bit of protein, you can skip the fat.

Holy moly. When have I EVER recommended we not balance our plate?! I’ll tell ya when, right before a competitive event. During exercise, especially race day, we push our bodies to the max. Our body perceives this effort as a BIG STRESS, freaks out a little bit, and shunts towards our critical organs (such as the heart) and flow away from our “non-critical” GI system. For this reason, you’ll feel best if your meal is pretty well digested by the time you hit the road… when blood flow to your gastrointestinal system is compromised, you are more likely to encounter bloating, belching or diarrhea.

Simple carbs are carbs that do not contain a whole lot of fiber. Skip beans, large portions of veggies, legumes or fibrous grains such as bran before your race. Instead, think of processed grains such as ezekial bread or Dave’s Killer Bread, pasta, rice, fruit, or rice cereal as your friend pre-competition.

But hold up! A little bit of protein may be helpful too. The scientific literature varies for this recommendation, but some studies show that having some protein before you work out helps with recovery. The recommendation is to keep the meal carb heavy with 4 times the amount of carb than protein.


So what do I eat?!

  • This "Your Competitors are Toast" recipe is a great, easy idea

  • A scoop of cottage cheese drizzled with some honey on toast

  • A banana or apple with 3 tablespoons of powdered PB

  • Leftover pasta with a small serving (think ¼ of your palm) of leftover meat/fish

  • Mary’s Gone Crackers dipped in some homemade Greek yogurt dip

  • A smoothie made with almond/coconut/skim milk, some fruit and a scoop of Greek yogurt or 3 Tablespoons Jif Powdered PB

  • Oatmeal boiled with almond milk, banana slices and egg whites

Happy Race Day!



Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J, Campbell B, Wilborn C, Kreider R, Kalman D, Ziegenfuss T, Lopez H, Landis J, Ivy J, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2008;5:17. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-5-17


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