Pre-Race Meals

What’s Included?

  • Before a 5k
  • Before a Half Marathon
  • Before a Marathon

Nutrition and fuel can play such a HUGE role in our race day performance – and that pre-race dinner should look very different depending upon which distance you’ll be racing. This is because each race requires a different amount of energy & thus a different amount of stored carbs to supply the fuel for that energy. This article will outline how each race varies & provide 3 ideal pre-race dinner options for each distance! Let’s dig in!

BEFORE A 5K

During the 5K, you likely already have enough stored carbs to get you through the entire race without carb loading or changing your normal routine with fuel. The 5K requires a quick burst of energy and speed, meaning you won’t want to bog yourself down with excess carbs or fiber the night before (or the morning of). Even without a morning snack, you can likely still make it through the 5K with enough energy! One of the most important things when it comes to fueling for the 5K is that you stick with something your body is familiar with – something you’ve had before & KNOW that it won’t cause any distress, cramps, or gas.

Since your body has to retain fluid (water) to process carbohydrates, eating TOO many carbs the night before a 5K could actually cause bloating & make you feel heavy and sluggish during your race. So instead of opting for that huge bowl of pasta, here are a few great options for the pre-race 5K dinner.


BEFORE A HALF MARATHON

For the half marathon – the role of carbs increases DRASTICALLY from the 5K where they were less critical. However, many runners make the mistake of trying to bulk up on these carbs the night before the race instead of properly spreading them out in the days leading up to the race. Carb loading for the half marathon should start a few days ahead of time – 2-3 days approximately. It’s recommended that you consume about 4 grams of carbs for each pound of body weight each day leading up to the race (2-3 days ahead) – and make sure to spread them out!

The day before your half marathon shouldn’t look too different from the previous few carb-loading days – you should still be spreading out your carb intake vs. waiting for the pre-race dinner to load up. If you overeat carbs during your dinner, you will likely end up with stomach cramping, bloating, and discomfort due to the water retention from the carbs (it requires water to process carbs – so your body will “hang on” to all of that water you’re drinking to prepare for your race).

For your pre-race dinner, you’ll want to make sure it’s still relatively high in carbs, but not excessive. The SIZE of the meal is also important – YES, pasta is great! But – a HUGE heaping plate of pasta is not great. Stick with a moderate sized meal that you know doesn’t leave you feeling uncomfortable, bloated, or with gastrointenstinal distress. Here are a few options for the half marathon pre-race dinner:

Lemon Chicken PastaChicken, Tomato, and Spinach FlatbreadOne Pan Chicken & Potatoes
https://www.nourish-and-fete.com/lemon-chicken-pasta/https://butteryourbiscuit.com/garlic-roasted-tomato-spinach-flatbread/https://ifoodreal.com/one-pan-chicken-potatoes/

BEFORE A MARATHON

For the marathon – the role of carbs increases even MORE compared to both the 5K and half marathon. However, again, many runners make the mistake of trying to bulk up on these carbs the night before the race instead of properly spreading them out in the days leading up to the race. Carb loading for the marathon should be similar to the half marathon & should start days before the race – but this time, you should start even FURTHER out from the race (approximately 3-5 days ahead) . It’s recommended that you consume about 8-12 grams of carbs for each kilogram of body weight each day leading up to the race- and make sure to spread them out throughout the day vs. bulking all at once.

The day before your marathon shouldn’t look too different from the previous few carb-loading days – you should still be spreading out your carb intake vs. waiting for the pre-race dinner to load up. If you overeat carbs during your dinner, you will likely end up with stomach cramping, bloating, and discomfort due to the water retention from the carbs (it requires water to process carbs – so your body will “hang on” to all of that water you’re drinking to prepare for your race).

In addition, a big difference when fueling for the marathon is the importance of BREAKFAST before the marathon. Your breakfast should be eaten approximately 3-4 hours before the start of the race, with another small snack about an hour before. This is because you need to top off those carbohydrate stores. But what should you have for your pre-marathon dinner? Here are few options!

Chicken & Rice CasseroleTomato & Spinach Chicken PastaPancakes & Eggs
https://ifoodreal.com/healthy-chicken-and-rice-casserole/https://www.saltandlavender.com/tomato-spinach-chicken-pasta/https://www.inspiredtaste.net/25202/easy-whole-wheat-pancakes-recipe/

Amy Haas
Run with Aim, LLC
UESCA Certified Running Coach
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
NASM Certified Nutrition Coach

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