When to eat for half marathons/marathons (my race day nutrition!)

While I’ll readily admit to eating (and drinking) tons of different, unhealthy meals and consuming multiple libations the day before a race, the morning of and during a race I adhere to the exact same meal plan. To date I have run two full marathons and five half marathons and thus far sticking to the outlined meal plan has never failed me. My goal with the below is to ensure I’ve ample carbs in my system prior to race start and have enough easily digestible carbs in my running belt to consume at regular intervals for the duration of the race. While I’m never one to push products (SINCE NO ONE SPONSORS THE GAINZ OF TWITCH FOR SOME REASON), I personally have used each of the below for each race and genuinely believe they have improved my race day performance. Here’s pre-race meal plan along with why I use each of the items:

Pre-race
-1 bagel (preferably Dave’s Killer Bread plain)
-1 packet of Justin almond butter
-1-2 tspb of honey
-16-24 oz coffee
-2 tbsp of coffee creamer
-4 Onnit Shroom Tech Sport capsules

While I’m a caffeine fiend so 16 oz of coffee in the morning is pretty much par for the course, I tend to have a little extra on race day (I also tend to wake up 2.5 hours before I plan to be at the starting line) to ensure I’m able to clear the system before heading out. I also take fiber pills the night before a race with a couple bottles of water to ensure the coffee does the trick. I have the bagel, almond butter and honey to ensure I’ve a hearty amount of easily digestible carbs in my stomach which tastes great and keeps me full. I’m quite leery of any “performance enhancing” products as I’ve tried many over the years, however I believe the Shroom Tech Sport helps me recover faster and stay more mentally focused throughout a race. I tried it three times before heading out on long runs in the weeks leading up to my first race and now I take it before every race.

During race
-Jelly belly sports beans
-Water
-Gatorade/powerade/sports drinks

I know Cliff Shot Bloks are all the rage for runners and I used them for my first three races, however I never cared for their flavor or texture. Once I found the Jelly Belly Sports beans-which taste like jelly beans with a little kick which means they are awesome-they’ve become my go-to race day fuel. We’ll cover when to consume your carbs/water in detail below, however I do alternate between consuming sports beans and sports drinks to get my carbs in during long races as I can’t stand consuming just one or the other. There are a number of sports gels available, however I’d recommend you give the sports beans a try if you’re looking for something that gets the job done and tastes amazing!

After race
-Protein shake (typically Vega Sport)
-G-Fuel (for caffeine)
-Lots of alcohol (not recommended LOL)

I like having a protein shake and caffeine after a race so I don’t gorge myself in the post race meal…and also to ensure I’ve at least something in the system for the bar I’m going to hit as soon as I’ve changed out of my race clothes.

When to eat during a race

Aim to consume approximately 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour for runs lasting longer than one hour. As much as I love those sports beans a single pack only contains 25g of carbs. This means if you want to be adequately fueled you’ll need to have a pack and then a swig of sports drink at hydration/refueling races to ensure you get at least 30g every hour. As a result I like to divide up my carbs in 30-45 min intervals until the race is complete-regardless of distance. I’ve ran of empty before and it is not a good feeling, so I always err on the side of having a few too many carbs than not enough.

Even though you’re trying to complete the race as quickly as possible, your goal should be to ensure you’re properly fueled. Unless in your training you’ve ran into stomach issues (which is why you try things out multiple times before race day!) when fueling you should be aiming to ingest carbs approximately every 30 min and around 6-10 oz of fluid every 2-3 miles. I set a timer for 30 min on my watch and when it goes off I if I’m at an aid station I down the provided sports drink and water, along with a pack of sports beans. Setting the timer for myself gives me something to focus on other than pace, but I encourage you to figure out what works for you on race day. Below is the plan I follow during half marathons and for full marathons it’d just continue until the end of the race. Note-I do carry packs of sports beans and a water bottle on me on race day to ensure I’ve access to a quick shot of hydration at all times.

Race day nutrition plan

Two hours before race
-Pre race meal

30 minutes after race start
-Pack of sports jelly beans
-Water provided at aid station

45 minutes after race start
-1 or 2 long sips of water

1 hour after race start
-Pack of sports jelly beans/gatorade (if by race station)
-1 or 2 long sips of water/some water provided at race station

1 hour 15 min after race start
-1 or 2 long sips of water

1 hour 30 min after race start
-Pack of sports jelly beans/gatorade (if by race station)
-1 or 2 long sips of water/some water provided at race station

1 hour 45 min after race start
-1 or 2 long sips of water

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always drink water every 15 minutes-this typically works during my training plan but if I find myself on the cusp of getting full, I’ll forgo water as opposed to skipping the carb/water break combo. The last thing you want is to run out of steam when you’re in the latter stages of a race. I’d recommend you use the aforementioned as an outline (it’s what I typically adhere to and advise my running clients to do the same) and give it a shot during your next training run and find what works for you. If you’re looking for some additional info, check the video below!

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