What to Eat Before a Race

Preparing for a race begins the days before with a proper diet and hydration. You might want to plan meals high in carbohydrates, proteins, while topping off your body's glycogen supply. Running experts agree that 0.1 oz. to 0.15 oz. of carbohydrates per pound of body weight per day is a good start. For example, a person weighing 140 pounds would need 14 oz. to 16 oz. of carbohydrates in the meal plan before the race.

What to Eat Before a Race

1. Carbohydrates

Runners training for marathon races should be getting 65 to 70 % of their calories from carbohydrates in the days leading up to the race. You’ll not want to stuff yourself full of pasta the night before, because all that loading may lead to unloading (runner’s trots) during the race. Just eat normally, remembering not to overdo the carbs at any one sitting.

2. Whole Grains

Start the pre-race day with whole grain cereals or bread. Whole grains are high in fiber while low in calories, and are a great source of energy that extends over a long period of time. Whether you choose a warm bowl of oatmeal, a whole wheat bagel, or toast with your favorite fruit spread, whole grains tend to fill you up without leaving you feeling sluggish in the morning before the big race.

3. Egg Whites

What to eat before a race in the morning? Opt for egg whites, which are fat free, cholesterol free, and very low in calories. Best of all, egg whites are a great source of high quality protein needed before any race. Besides, they are simple to prepare, you just need to boil them and discard the yolks. For those who are lactose intolerant, the good news is that they are lactose-free, and you can eat several of them at a time.

4. Potassium Rich Fruits

Fruits containing potassium could provide you with a quick burst of energy when consumed before a race. Potassium is critical as it relates to muscle contraction when running. Consuming some potassium rich fruits such as avocado, dried apricot, or banana prior to the race will help avoid muscle cramping during the race.

5. Trail Snack Mix or Protein Shake

Marathon runners get their daily dose of vitamin E, health-building antioxidants and a bunch of trace minerals in a trail snack mix. Whip up a quick batch by combining a 1/2 cup each of almonds, pecans, roasted soy nuts, dried cranberry’s, dried blueberry’s and 1/4 cup each of pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Or you can combine dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips to make a protein shake. You can also make your own by blending a cup of fresh berries and/or green veggies like spinach with Greek yogurt.

6. Water

Drink plenty of water in the days before the race. If you're properly hydrating, your urine should be a light yellow. And also make sure you're getting some extra electrolytes by having sports drink. Avoid sodas and alcoholic beverages, because they have a dehydrating effect, and there is too much sugar in them.

Watch this video to learn what to eat before a race.

Other items to keep in mind the day before the big race:

  •   Remember to eat carbs in all your meals, not just the night before.
  •   Remember that carbs are also found in fruits and vegetables, not just breads and pasta.
  •   Don’t overdo the carbs, it’ll just make you lethargic.
  •   Avoid alcohol and caffeine, they’ll just cause you to become dehydrated.
  •   Only you know what to eat before a race that will agree with you the next day. Avoid any unusual foods that you are not familiar with, especially the night before the race. You’ll want to stick with the foods that have worked well for you in the past in order to prevent any cramping, or runner’s trots (diarrhea) during the race. If you’re planning to eat in a restaurant, make sure it’s a restaurant you’re familiar with, and order a meal that has agreed with you in the past.

Example Meal Plans Before a Race



(20 hrs)


(16 hrs)


(12 hrs)


(10 hrs)


(90 min)

5K Meal Plan

Turkey and avocado sandwich;

Carrots with humus dip;

Small apple;


Trail snack mix;


Poached salmon;

Brown rice;

Steamed summer squash;


Air-popped popcorn;

Banana with 1/2 Tbsp. peanut butter;

16 oz. water or low calorie sports drink

10K Meal Plan

Veggie burger;

Baked sweet potato fries;


Trail snack mix;


8 oz. grilled chicken breast;

Steamed quinoas;

Spinach salad with light dressing;


Low-fat ice cream with strawberries;


Fruit and yogurt smoothie

8 to 10 oz. water; low calorie sports drink;

with added electrolytes

Half Marathon Meal Plan

Turkey burger on whole grain wheat bun;

Fresh salad;


Lemonade and water

Trail snack mix;


Baked fish;

Steamed summer squash;

Brown rice


Frozen yogurt with honey

Whole-wheat muffin with peanut butter and preserves;

8 to 10 oz. water; low calorie sports drink with added electrolytes

Marathon Meal Plan

Chicken burrito with guacamole;

Black beans and rice;


Greek yogurt and blueberry’s;


Tofu and vegetable stir-fry;

Brown rice;


Vanilla; pudding with sliced banana


8 oz. full-calorie sports drink


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