Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
Log in
You are here: Home News 6 Simple Tips for Fueling Before and During a Race

6 Simple Tips for Fueling Before and During a Race

Pamela Nisevich Bede, Runner's World

Individual preference vary, but these eating and drinking guidelines apply to every runner.

 

When I first started practicing, my team of clients would say, “Just tell us what to eat and when.” My response: “Everyone’s different.” Without trial and error, there’s no blanket recommendation on what to eat on race day. But the more I run and race, I realize there are habits we all should adopt and nutrition tips that apply to each and every runner.

If you’re racing longer than 90 minutes, carb-loading applies.
If you’re lacing up for a 10K, you can skip this ritual. Or if you’re gifted enough to run a half in say, 80 minutes, you may be able to get away without the load. For the rest of us, tapered training accompanied by three days (one day at the minimum) of gloriously imbibing in whole grains, bread, bagels, fruit, and cereal will do it.

How much carb is enough? You’re going to need to aim for 4.5 to 5.5 grams per pound, which is likely more than you’re used to and might mean the vast majority of your daily calories in the days before the race are coming from baked goods, pretzels, potatoes, and whole grains.

RELATED: Prep great meals (in less time!) with Meals on the Run.

For those who are carb-phobic, you might be afraid this amount of carbs will derail your weight goals or open the door for gluttony. But remember: Carb-loading is only temporary, and it’s important to fend of race-day walls. Once the race is over, you’ll return to your normal pattern of balanced eating with about 55 to 65 percent of calories coming from carbs and the rest from lean protein and unsaturated fats. (Right???)

Don’t skip breakfast.
While you may have found some weight loss success with “training low” (i.e. training on an empty tank and burning off some fat reserves), race day is not a day to train low. The goal on race day is to perform and finish rather than meet weight goals. (I promise you one day of fueling the run is not going to derail long-term weight loss.)

A prerace breakfast does many things. It restores muscle glycogen stores after an overnight fast; it tops off those muscle glycogen stores so they’re full at race start; it prevents hunger (which, if it rears its head in the middle of the race, can certainly distract you and impair performance); and it can keep blood glucose levels more stable, providing a mental boost.

What to eat for breakfast? Aim for a light meal you’re familiar with and one that sits well in your system. Most research suggests you should eat 0.5 to 1.8 grams of carbs per pound in the one to four hours before a workout. The longer you have before heading out, the more time you’ll have to digest. Most athletes can handle 0.45 grams per pound of carbs (and a bit of protein) in the hour or so before a race.

What does this look like? It’s probably what you’ve been consuming anyway. For a 140-pound runner, it’s 1 cup of whole grain O’s cereal + ½ cup low-fat milk and 8 ounces of OJ. For a 190-pound runner, it’s 1 cup of oatmeal topped with 1 medium sliced banana and ½ of a toasted bagel. See? Nothing too complex or out of the ordinary.

If you’re going to run a half or full, you need to fuel along the way.
Certainly, your carb-load (see above), if done properly, will fill your muscle glycogen stores to the brim before you take off. But even with the carb-load, there’s a limit to how much muscle glycogen you have on board. Which means that at some point during the race, you’re going to need to add some fuel to your tank. You can find the 30 to 60 grams of carbs you need in gels, blocks, bars, and drinks. Aim to consume some carbs every 15-20 minutes along the course. This will give your system time to absorb the fuel and disperse to working muscles.

Remember to practice fueling during your training. If you’re trying to determine which brand and flavor of fuel to use, check the race website. It’s well worth your time to do the research; the race is bound to hand out a certain brand of gel. If you can tolerate the brand they are using, you can be confident on race day that you won’t have any GI surprises and you won’t need to pack as much in your fuel belt. If you try out the on-course brand and find it isn’t for you, no problem. Experiment with other brands, flavors, and forms during training. Once you find one that works, stick with it and pack it on race day.

Don’t wait.
If you start to feel good during a race, don’t save your fuel thinking you’ll use it once you start to feel fatigued. By then it may be too late! Instead of letting your glycogen stores get past the point of no return, start fueling early and often. If you take just a bit of fuel at a time, you can meet your goal of 30+ grams of carbs an hour without feeling like you have a gut bomb.

Chase those gels or blocks with water.
Your system will struggle to absorb the badly needed energy unless you dilute it by grabbing some water along the course. So plan your fueling strategy (especially with gels) around the aid stations.

Drink along the course.
Every runner is different in terms of choice, volume and frequency. Most find that if they replace sweat losses and are careful to drink to thirst (potentially beyond if sweat losses are intense), they finish the race feeling strong. Personally, I find that as a salty sweater (a really salty sweater, with a sensitive gut), I need heavy electrolytes and fluids. But high-carb sports drinks aren’t for me. When I hit the wall, it’s an electrolyte issue rather than a carb issue.

Like anything, it took a lot of trial and error before I figured this out. So while the above tips are general, solid guidance, take time to practice fueling ahead of race day. And best of luck in your training and fueling!

2017 Members

Dave, Alexa, Nadia Alden
Michelle Andrew
Miguel Arellano
Adam & Becky Arensdofr
Tom & Joleen Arnhold
Mike BakerNatasha Bangel
Stacie Baquero
Virginia Barnes
John & Lila Bartel
Katie Baylie
Ivan, Zach, Brianna Beach
Matt Benaka
Megan Bergquist
John & Lettitia Bernard
George Bernheimer
Bre Berroth
Lana & Bob Best
Lynette Biehler
Holly Blick
Ben Bradshaw
Kevin Brown
Anthony Bryan
Steven Buckley
Brian, Amanda, Tyler Budden
Nick Buek
Jacob Bull
David Burgoon
Suzanne Burris
Michelle Carson
Rudy Chavez
Debra Christian
Nick Clair
Brad & Pam Clark
Scott & Rebecca Cole
Andrew Connery
Scott Cook
Chris Cozadd
Cassie Criger
Christine Cunningham
Reagan Cussimanio
Mandy Davis
De La Pena-Goldsmith, Lizette
Kathleen Deeter
Rick Deibert
Heiko Detlefsen
Joshua Devlin
Sarah & Daniel Dodson
Robert Downing
Mary Anne & Jared Durall
Tom Eck
Jonathan Edralin
Jim & Ethel Edwards
Patrick Eldringhoff
Joseph Eldringhoff
Mark Elliott
Michael Erwin
Taylor Evans
Larry Everly
Neal & Karen Farron
Heather Fay
Dana Ferrell
Vince & Leanne Finney
Mark Fisher
Jim & Susan Fitzgerald/Botkin
Lloyd, Lisa & Rebecca Fleming/Johnston
Casey Ford
Alisha Francis
Todd & Brandi Gaddis
Jack Galan
J.C. Garcia
Mimi Gardner
Shaun Gardner
Marty & Julie Garren
Garry Gribbles - Tom Truhsdale
Garry Gribbles - Steve Sell
Garry Gribbles - Mckensie Bevins
Garry Gribbles - Cassie
Garry Gribbles - Monica Schragg
Garry Gribbles - Joe Schragg
Greg Gaul
Larry & Elaine Gill
Angie Gleason
Artie Gonzales
Dreher Goodrich
Justin & Leslie Gordon
Kelley Gorman
Lindsay Gress
James & Linda Griffin
Cathy Grisham
Rocco (Edmund) Gutierrez
Cheryl Haefele
Ryan Haefke
Ryan Hahn
Roger Hambold
Richard Harmon
Micah and Meagan Hawkinson
Irene Haws
Kristen Hearrell
Marcia Henderson
Kiley Hickock
Misty Hight
Denis Hill
Scott Hirschi
Laura Hoerman
Ralph & Kay Howard
Dale Hubbell
Chelsey Huddleston
Karla Huffman
Al Hunt
Sarah Hunter
Jeff Huss
Patty Hylton
Doug & Dorthy IIiff
Steve Ingersoll
Matthew Ishkanian
Dan & Tracie Inman
Michael Jamison
Mark, Jody, Sterling, Chase Johnson
Bo Jones
Lezlee, David Kylie, Allie Jones
Tracy, Peter, Morgan, Tyler Jones
Alicia Julian
Andrew & Rachel Kapp
Kim Keen
Larry Kietzman
Jamie Kim
Karin Kingsley
Ashley Koch
Kevin Kulm
Daniel Kurtz
Dan Lara
Clay Lang
Dennis Lawlor
Myron & Tandy Leinwetter
Tom, Karen & Ava Lemon
Jan W Leuenberger
Jason, Glenn & Glenn Lewis
Rebaecca Litvak
Laura Liggatt
Phillip Livingston and Eun Jin Kim
Jaclyn Long
Cassie Madden
Jamie Mauer
Robert, Glenda Michaela McCanliss
Jill McCartney
Dan McCollum
Steve McGaughey
Nancy McKenzie
Candi Meerpohl
Elijah Mendez
Abby Moore
Richard Morgan
Lisa Mortiz
Heather Morrison
Justin & Vanessa Moss (Steinroetter)
Hunter Munns
Tracie Neill
Dave Newbery
LeTiffany Obozele
Tim & Meredith Owen
Thomas Ortiz
Dwight Parman
Rachel, Dave, James, Matthew Peck
Nancy Perth
Greg, Kelly, Shelby, Quinn, Carley Pert
Tamara Peterson (Miller)
Abi Phelps
Claire Phillips
Shane Plemons
Gary Pratt
Jim & Jan Price
Tony Rake
Jory Reedy
The Regnier Family
Brad & Marla Rhoden
Bethany Richardson
Brent, Luke, Isaiah, Rebekah, Gabe Roper
Angela Roberson
Lesa Roberts and Rick Beattie
Michael Robins
Ashley Robinson-Evans
Maria Rodriguez
Margie Rogers
Vickie Rogers and Dan Rethman
Donna Romans
Yana Ross
Brent, Luke, Isaiah, Rebekah, Gabe Roper
Kjrsten Ruch
Elena Rusche
Sean Rutter
Andy Sample
David Sanchez
Suzanne Sawyer-Burris
Tanya Scott
Jacob & Sheena Schmidtlein
Tim Schmitz
Peg Schultz
Spencer Share
Bobbi Shinn
Debbie Simecka
Monica Smith
Eric & Vicki Smith
Rashawn Smith
Robert, Nici, Angelica Soria
Doug & Kathy Stacken
Lon Stanton
Charles & Christine Steinkuehler
Scott Steward
Ken Stone
Ronald & Linda Strader
Iradj Stroble
Liatris Studer
Vossler and Lynette Stueve
Steve Stumbaugh
Thad Sullivan
Michelle Terry
Kristen Thiessen
Barb, Leigha, Ron Thomas
Josh & Jacquelyn Thompson
Ken/Jan Tillery/Escola
Tammy Tipton
Bill & Reagan Tofflemire
Kelly Tosh
Kermit Trout
Scott Umsheide
Roger Underwood
Sarah Vincent
Vicki Vossler & Lynette Steuve
James Wabaunsee
Bill, Brenda, Emily, Billy, Abby, and Sophie Wagemaker
Joe Wagenblast
Paul, Tracy & Marissa Wagner
Vicky Walters
Jarod Waltner
TaNiqua Ward
Deanna Warner
Israel Wasserstein
Joshua and Skyler Watson
Les Watson
Monte Weathers
Jane Weiler
Frank Weinhold
Norma Weiser
Bob & Sharon Wenger
Becky Wessel
Kathi West and Sue Hamlin
Rosemary, Les, Rosalie Wilkerson
Don, Kim Erin Wilson
Jackie Williams
Tim Willingham
Sara Wood
Nick Xidis
Bryan Yowell
Jason & Katie Yuhasz

« October 2017 »
October
SuMoTuWeThFrSa
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031
Upcoming Events
Med Hero Appreciation 5K Run/Walk Oct 21, 2017 03:30 AM - 07:00 AM — Kanza Park, Topeka, KS
Maple Leaf Run 5K and 1 Mile walk Oct 21, 2017 08:00 AM - 10:00 PM — Baldwin City Maple Leaf Festival
OctoberFast Kids Run Oct 28, 2017 09:00 AM - 10:00 AM — Topeka, KS
Toys For Tots 5K Oct 28, 2017 09:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Topeka South Rotary Pumpkin Run Oct 31, 2017 08:30 AM - 10:30 AM — Lake Shawnee, Topeka, KS
Upcoming events…