On race day, the blood, sweat, and tears of training will only take you so far — you’re going to need a pre-run snack to power your performance. What kind? Nothing unusual, that’s for damn sure.
“The most important thing when it comes to race day is to consume foods and beverages you trained with," Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, says. "You should never eat anything new within 48 hours of racing."
Trial and error aren’t for game day, as food affects people in different ways. The very last things you want to be dealing with on race day are digestive distress, lethargy, and headaches.
For optimal effort and energy, have a solid breakfast that's rich in carbs and low in fat, fiber, and protein, at least two hours before the race starts. A whole wheat bagel with an egg or nut butter, and Greek yogurt with oatmeal, berries, and nuts are two great options. After that, you want a pre-run snack to keep stoking the fire. Here’s what to reach for.
What Is the Best Pre-Jog Snack for Before Your Race?
90 Minutes Before the Race: Fuel With Slow-Release Carbs
Ninety minutes before start time, reach for a pre-run snack with good carbs that’s also low in protein and fiber. A solid choice is to just add water to a cup of instant oatmeal. The carbs release slowly, fueling you while also preventing hunger pangs, Jones says. You can also try a banana — or both.
“Bananas are great carbohydrate sources, shown to support running," she says. "A ripe banana will provide energy while also being easy on the stomach before a race."
During the Race: Get a Sweet Boost From Quick- and Slow-Release Carbs
If you’re in the middle of the race but your energy is draining, you'll need a quick boost to get you to the finish. Avoid anything with protein or fat, Jones says, as they’ll weigh you down and take a long time to digest. Energy gels are a go-to, but you can also try honey.
“Honey is shown to support endurance exercise just as effectively,” Jones says. “The combination of sugars in honey naturally sends both quick-release and slow-release carbs into the bloodstream to lessen the chances of a spike and crash. Make it easy and pack your honey packets in your race belt."
If you're not a fan of honey, you still have plenty of other portable options.
“Salted dates have energy and fiber to prevent a spike and crash," she explains. "The salt adds electrolytes you tend to sweat out, so this can be a great pick for heavy sweaters to stash in their belt."
After the Finish: Recover With Carbs and Protein
You did it, but don't let all of your discipline go out the window. Grab something with quality carbs and protein after you cross the finish line to kick-start the recovery process.
“Protein bars such as RxBar provide high-quality protein in the form of egg whites, along with fruit-based carbohydrates to deliver the two most important nutrients for recovery,” Jones says.
You can also have milk and wait to eat if you're someone who gets post-race queasiness.
“Shelf-stable milk or soy milk containers provide the ideal carb-to-protein ratio for recovery,” Jones says. "Even if you’re not hungry after a race, you can manage a swig."