What should you eat before a big race?

Everyone is different and each and every runner out there will have their own pre-race routine when it comes to food, but equally, this topic is a huge one for inexperienced runners.

Here, I thought I’d give you an insight into my nutrition leading up to race day.


What is it, you ask? It’s the period before an endurance race whereby you maximise your body’s carbohydrate intake.

Essentially, I eat plenty of foods such as yoghurt, oatmeal, whole fruit, potatoes, rice and of course pasta ahead of my event to build and boost my glycogen (glucose) and carb stores inside my body. By doing this, it can really help your body replenish decreasing energy levels quicker than normal and dip into your body’s reserves when you need it most during those hard miles.

A little fact for you – and although you wouldn’t necessarily stick to this down to a tee – you should add 8-10g of carbohydrate per kilogram of your overall weight to your nutrition plan. Effectively, this means three meals per day as well as three snacks.

And, with each meal you consume, I’d recommend you want around 50-60% of your food to contain carbs while it is also important to get the right balance of protein, too.

That means, include fish and chicken in your lunch and dinner plans.

broccoli chicken close up cooking
Chicken is a great source of protein.

When should I carb-load?

In an ideal world, you want to start carb loading at least three days before race day to give your body a chance to adapt and store energy, whereas elite runners may tend to factor in a week’s food preparation.

Don’t worry if you feel a bit heavy the day before race day, that is actually a good indicator you’ve prepared sufficiently.

It should be said, carb-load isn’t necessarily for everyone but boils down to elements of trial and error on the individual’s part.

bunch of pasta
Pasta is a rich source of carbohydrates.

What do I have for breakfast?

Factoring in the start time of your race is crucial, and again – although everyone is different – you want to leave at least a three hour gap between eating and running. I tend to go for something extremely light, like porridge or a bit of cereal and a banana.

Porridge is especially good as it provides a mix of fibre, protein and slow-release energy while water and juice will keep you fuelled up. Coffee is also a great way to give you a bit of a kick.

As ever, hydrate well in the lead up to your event and drink around two litres of water every day.

clean clear cold drink
It’s important to stay hydrated.

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