Friday, January 28, 2011

Foodie Friday: The pre-race meal

I have a dilemma....something that's been on my mind for a while. I feel as though I am constantly reading/hearing about the "best things to eat on race morning," or the "proper fuel/sports drink for the course."

I've mentioned before that I mostly run or cross-train at the gym at dark thirty, before the roosters crow. This is a habit I established in high school. Everyone knows what works for them, for me it's basically an AM workout or nothing. The reasons for this are quite simple. A of all, I'm a morning person. Secondly, I would never see my husband or my dog if I exercised after work (and I kinda like them), and most important of all - I know that if I don't do it first just won't get done because I'll come up with a million excuses not to. Because I start so early, I don't eat anything before I work out...and that works for me.

I know some people would pass out or feel weak or nauseated...but not me, I love working out on an empty stomach. I feel light, not weighed down, and I worry if I do eat too close to working out, this Subway experience might happen again - and I'll get all indigestiony and crampy. And let's face it - I'm not waking up even earlier than I already do to give myself an extra hour to let my food rest, sleep is more important than food that early in the morning.

Before the Turkey Trot 10K I didn't eat anything and was absolutely fine. However its seems all the "experts," experienced runners, and my own common sense would tell me that on race day (and I assume especially for long training runs and races) this is not a good idea.

The body needs fuel, something that will sustain you, give you energy and keep you going.

In most of what I read, the theme seems to be "do what works best for you" (and what you normally do for training days) on race day. Makes sense right? It would be stupid to have an oh so yummy chick-fil-a chicken biscuit right before a race if you've never trained that way before. But as I think about running 26.2 miles, or even 10 miles, my "usual" of eating nothing can't be good, right?

So let's explore some options. One of my spinning instructors (who does a lot of triathlons and is basically a bad A) said on race days she has a toasted bagel with peanut butter.

This could work for me, - except the fact that I don't just love peanut butter. I know - that sort of makes me un-American. And I have a confession...I never ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches growing up. However, I think I could tweak that idea with something my co-worker introduced me too this weak, a little piece of heaven! A toasted everything bagel with humus and avocado. Not only is it yummy, but with the avocado, a healthy fat, and humus, a good source of protein, it's healthy (minus the bagel of course).

Wrong, try again. According to various articles on, you should chose something higher in carbs and lower in fat, fiber, and protein. So that eliminates the avocado and the humus. But we're on the right track with a bagel, a plain bagel to be exact. Even though they aren'tas nutritious as their whole grain, unprocessed counterparts, they're easier on your stomach because the whole grain is already broken down.

Clearly the un-educated novice, I stopped trying to concoct pre-race food ideas on my own and just researched some safe options. If you really want to eat fruit before a race (not recommended because of the fiber thing) go with grapes, grapefruit, or banana.

If you go the dairy route (which you totally shouldn't if you are lactose intolerant) you should consider yogurt with live or active cultures.

One thing most all article agree on is to eat about and hour and a half to two hours before race time. That makes sense and would seem to prevent the cramping that has me worried. But to be honest, most of the suggested foods, if eaten within 2 hours of race time (i.e. grapes, or yogurt) don't seem like foods that would sustain or provide energy beyond the 2 hours before you would start the race...much less hours into the race?

So what's a girl to do? Well, I've got 274 days and many a training runs to figure it out. I'm thinking the toasted bagel and peanut butter seems to make the most sense, even if it might not be my favorite option.

What about you, any pre-run meal suggestions that work particularly well?

Breakfastly challenged,

1 comment:

  1. Hi! My name is Rachel and I went to college with Sally. I forget how I stumbled upon y'alls blog, but here I am.

    The pre-race breakfast that works best for me is a piece of toast, SunButter (i'll come back to that in a sec) and sliced banana on top.

    In the world of health blogs, peanut butter is defintely secondary to other types of nut butters. The kind that I eat, SunButter, is made with sunflower seeds and I love it.

    I know one thing that does NOT work for me is having dairy before a race. Yogurt? No. Cereal and milk? Hell no.

    Good luck!