Are you training for an upcoming race or marathon? Whether you’re a race veteran or a newbie, it’s extremely important to feed your body properly before and after a race. Eating the right foods at the right times will enable your body to perform at its best and allow it to recover properly, decreasing the possibility of injury.
Carbohydrates are the main fuel for running. The body converts them into glycogen, a source of energy stored in the liver and muscles. A good store of glycogen is needed to sustain energy levels and to prevent the body from
depleting proteins. Proteins are essential for rebuilding muscle, with lean meats like poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy being great options.
Eating immediately before running can lead to cramping, but eating too many hours beforehand can result in low energy levels during the race. Having a light snack or meal approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours before a race works well for many runners but you’ll need to experiment to find out what works best for you.
Choose a meal that’s high in carbohydrates and contains some protein and healthy fats. A few good pre-race foods include:
- A bagel with nut butter
- A banana and an energy bar
- A bowl of cold cereal with milk
- Whole wheat pasta with cheese and veggies
- A vegetable omelet with toast
- A cheese stick and carrots
- A smoothie made with fruit and yogurt
The goal after a race is to replenish energy as quickly as possible and to minimize muscle stiffness and soreness. Eating within thirty minutes after completing a race is ideal, as muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen stores during this time.
Carbohydrates are essential for recovery but protein is also important. Some good post-race food options are:
- Chocolate milk
- Oatmeal topped with fresh fruit, honey, or almonds
- Hummus with carrot sticks or pita bread
- Chicken breasts with brown rice and vegetables
- A banana with peanut butter
- A sandwich with lean meats, eggs, or low-fat cheese
- Greek yogurt with granola and mixed berries
Don’t Forget to Hydrate
Staying properly hydrated is also critical. Be sure to drink water before your race to start off well hydrated. And drink water during and after the race to replace fluids lost through sweat.
By making sure your body receives the proper nutrition before and after, you’ll feel strong throughout your race and finish feeling ready for the next one!