Today’s post is coming at you from an RD friend of mine, Chrissy Carroll, who also happens to be a triathlon coach. Chrissy and I met in some online blogging groups a few years ago, and we were then able to connect in person at a big fitness conference last summer. She runs the food & fitness blog Snacking in Sneakers, which is focused on recipes and fitness tips for runners & triathletes. I know you guys will love her tips today so let’s get to it!
5 Tips for Your Best Pre-Race Breakfast + Pre-Run Meal Ideas!
Any athlete knows that consistent training is essential for optimal performance in a big event. But sometimes, it’s easy to forget that nutrition goes hand-in-hand with that. The pre-race meal is a key factor in helping you perform, so it’s worthwhile to choose a good one. Whether you’ve got your first – or fiftieth – road race coming up, here are tips you need to help fuel you to the finish line.
Eat something, especially if it’s a long race.
I know, your stomach might be a ball of nerves and eating breakfast may be the last thing on your mind. But if you’re racing for more than an hour – like a half marathon or marathon – you’ll want the extra energy from that breakfast meal to help carry you through.
Racing a shorter event like a 5K? While you don’t necessarily need to eat before a shorter event, most people will find they perform better with a little pre-run snack. And if you’re a competitive athlete aiming to PR, the pre-run breakfast will help provide the carbohydrates your body needs for intense speed.
Don’t try anything new on race day.
It’s the cardinal rule of race day! It applies to gear, pacing strategies, and of course, nutrition. Now is not the time to break out a sample of a new energy bar you got. Instead, stick with tried-and-true pre-run breakfasts that you’ve experimented with during training.
Bring on the carbs (and some protein).
Carbohydrates have become media’s nutrition villain, but they’re actually quite valuable for runners – especially in your pre-race breakfast.*
When you’re running distance events, your body is always using a mixture of carbohydrates and fat to power your run. That pre-race breakfast helps to provide an extra boost of carbs (in addition to those stored in your muscles) for fuel during your event. Countless sports nutrition studies support this.
You can build your breakfast using whatever types you prefer: fruits, starchy veggies, grains, dairy products, etc. Choose easy to digest options.
Many people make the mistake of loading up on protein shakes or bars before an event. While protein is important and you do want some in your pre-race breakfast, these products typically are a bit out of balance for runners before a race, falling short on carbs. Instead, aim for a blend of mostly carbs along with some protein.
*Side note on Keto:
Ketogenic diets are prominent right now in the endurance community. While I personally think the keto research does not support performance improvement, I also understand some people feel good about this style of eating.
If that’s you, you probably would not use these same recommendations as above. Many keto athletes run fasted or with a standard keto breakfast (like eggs, bacon, packets of nut butter, etc). Do what works for your body!
Be fickle about fat and fiber.
Too much fat and fiber in a pre-race meal slows down digestion and can have you running for the porta potty mid-race. There’s no hard and fast rule here for specific amounts, as sports nutrition is very individualized.
If you eat 3-4 hours before a race, you have a little more flexibility with these components. If you eat 1-2 hours before a race, aim for lower amounts of fat and fiber.
Sensitive stomach? Consider liquids.
If you’re eating within an hour or so of your event and you have a sensitive stomach, you may want to consider liquids instead of solids. Some people find these easier to digest and more comfortable compared to a belly full of food. If that’s the case, try a smoothie or a sports drink. As always, practice during training to be sure it sits well and that it provides adequate energy.Got an upcoming road race? Get all the deets on what to eat before your run in this guest post from @chrissytherd!
12 Pre-Run Breakfast Ideas!
I’m partial to the age-old standard of a bagel with either a little cream cheese or peanut butter, but there are plenty of other options if you’re looking for a little variety.
Here are 12 pre-run meal ideas – just remember to try any of these in advance during training!
- Cereal (gluten free if necessary) with milk and a sliced banana
- Oatmeal with fruit
- Cookie dough oatmeal
- Oatmeal crust breakfast pizzas
- Peanut butter, honey, and banana sandwich/wrap
- Cranberry apple breakfast quinoa
- Quinoa or rice with one or two poached eggs
- Granola smoothie
- Energy balls made with dates, oats, and other add-ins
- Cherry cheesecake smoothie bowl
- Cast iron banana bread with maple syrup
- Cinnamon apple quinoa bake