Nothing new, only tried and true–that’s the mantra runners follow when it comes to deciding what to eat the morning of and during their race. But figuring out what “tried and true” is for you can be unexpectedly challenging. Use these tips during your training to help you determine what works best for your body, so your hopes for a new PB don’t get dashed by mid-race stomach cramps.
Use a journal
Write down what you ate before (and during, if you’re training for a longer race) your run, along with notes about how you felt during the run. Did your stomach feel unsettled, or was it smooth sailing? Did you feel energetic, or like you were dragging your feet? (Keep in mind that if the weather is unexpectedly warm, that could slow you down significantly and affect your energy level, which may be unrelated to your fuelling.)
Decide what you’re going to eat before your run, and make sure you have everything you need to prepare it. If possible, make your pre-run meal the night before, so it’s easy to grab in the morning, or at least,assemble your ingredients, so it’s quick and easy to make. This is especially important if you’ve got an early morning run on the calendar. Saving some time on food prep allows you to relax a bit before you head out, which can improve your digestion and help you feel better during your run.
It’s important to fuel before a run that’s longer than 60 minutes, but if this is your first time training for a longer race and you’re not used to eating before you run, start with something small, like crackers or half a banana. As you continue to practise pre-run fuelling, your stomach will become more accustomed to it. Try to eat at least an hour before your warmup.
Test on your easy day
Long runs are the perfect time to test new foods or fuelling strategies; so are recovery runs. Avoid experimenting with anything new before a key workout.
Know what you need
Most runners should eat about 50-60 grams of carbohydrate before a long run to top up their glycogen stores. A cup of cooked oatmeal with a banana will put you right around the 50-60 mark, so will a couple of slices of toast topped with jam or honey.
Remember, different foods work for different runners, so just because something works for your running buddy doesn’t mean it’ll work for you, too. Always take the time to test out new foods ahead of time, and prepare in advance to make sure you have what you need on race day.