Runner’s World Review – Perfecting Your Pre-Race Food Strategy

I’m an avid Runner’s World reader and have been for many years. Each month  I will pick one article from the magazine (suggestions welcome!) to discuss and we can kick around thoughts, opinions and reflections. We’ll stay one issue behind the most current so that non-subscriber’s can read along on the RW website.  It’ll be like a book club, except less Jane Austen and more sweat.  So grab a cup of Joe or tea (see, it is just like a book club!) and jump into the fray!

rw nov 2012

November 2012 – Perfecting Your Pre-Race Strategy

This may seem an odd pick, since I have no races (oh, hell, even running!) on the horizon, but I think it is a great topic for a number of reasons.

The first is that the rest/recover season (which many of us are in, and I would be regardless of the leg) is an ideal time to look back at our race season and figure out what worked (multiple 20 milers DID make me feel more confident going into the marathon) and what didn’t (running a race made what could have been a blip of an injury into a more persistent son of a gun. whoops).Nutrition is often at the top of these lists, an area that we are all always tweaking and working to improve.

Second, I love hearing about what people eat before/during/after runs, so I encourage you all to comment on what works for you (and also what doesn’t! my list includes a fiber hearty day that was topped off with a marathon training session after work – so I start this 26.2 mile run at 430 pm in March – not the balmiest time of year!- with not enough warm clothes and by mile 8 my stomach was already rumbling. 4 bathroom trips and countless tears later, I finished that run completely petrified that I would not be able to handle an ultra. bad times).

Finally,  I wanted to highlight this article to get your take on it. This one (and a few others I have read of late) recommend way more food than I know my body can handle before a race. After carb loading in the day(s) before (which does not mean an insane amount of food, just a higher percentage of carbs – but all those carbs make me feel very full!), they then suggest this race-morning for a 150-lb person (before a full or half-marathon, so don’t get any ideas 5-kers, lol!):

3 to 4 hours prerace
1 cup cooked oatmeal with 2 tablespoons honey 62 g of carbs
6 ounces yogurt 17 g
1 large banana 31 g
2 tablespoons raisins 16 g
4 ounces juice 14 g
12 to 20 ounces water 0 g
Total Carbs = 140 g

90 minutes to 2 hours prerace
1 slice bread with 1 tablespoon jam 28 g
24 ounces sports drink 47 g
Total Carbs = 75 g

30 to 60 minutes prerace
1 energy gel or serving of energy chews 25 g
8 to 12 ounces water 0 g
Total Carbs = 25 g

I’m sorry, but those 2 tblsp of raisins will put me right over the edge! I am lucky if I can choke down a bagel, nevermind juice and sports drink and a banana and all the rest! Of course, the way they make the carb calculation is individual, with the magic number being 1.5-1.8/pound body weight. The above tally is for a 150 lb runner and 240 carbs. I would need about 190, so you can scratch the sports drink – and that still seems like too much (volume and variety) for my belly. The dairy-heavy yogurt alone is a recipe for disaster!

I have learned that eating a few hours before I run is very helpful for digestion – but that presents its own challenges when races start as early as 7am. If there are a lot of participants, it means you need to be at the start 45-60 mins before. Nothing like a nice cup of oatmeal at 3 am!

So what about you? What works when you race? Do you count carbs/calories or just go by feel? Do you eat at a certain time? Please share because when I read your comments I can pretend like I am researching for a race I am about to do instead of dutifully donning my goggles for yet another swim session (which to be fair, is quite lovely in its own right but decidedly not the same!).


Filed under Runner's World Reviews

4 responses to “Runner’s World Review – Perfecting Your Pre-Race Food Strategy

  1. I am lucky to have a pretty strong stomach. Not much bothers me, but I am usually nervous the morning of a long race. This makes it tough to eat! What I have had the most success with is peanut butter and honey on a whole wheat english muffin, and a banana if I can. Sometimes bananas make me gag when I’m nervous, its weird. I also drink G2 cut with water, and eat a gel 15 mins before the start. Honestly the pre-race gel is the most difficult part of racing for me!! They go down fine once I start, but before is sooo hard! I think the couple days before a race are super important too. I like to drink my G2 water cocktails starting mid-week, and start focusing on carbs 2 days before. I don’t count or anything, I just go with what feels right. I hope your leg gets better soon! Until then, just keep swimming!!

    • hey, that’s the same thing nemo told me! lol…. caliing an ortho today to make an appt, so keep your fingers crossed… i always want to eat PB before a race, but anything with nuts makes my belly hurt too close to running. but honey on an eng muffin is a go-to for me before training runs, yummy! and i love your “G2 cocktail” lingo, that is awesome!

  2. As a relative newbie to racing, I’ve found no fiber and just some straight carbs work well for me – Wawa is open 24hrs, so it’s a banana nut muffin, a banana, and tea (not coffee, but I want that caffeine!)…I’d be scared of oatmeal for the fiber. I think that adds to about 600 calories pre race – is that too much : ) ? In my half-tri last year I added a kind bar and a gu to get up to about 900 calories pre-race (!) My personal (unscientific) philosophy is that the more I can stuff in before, the better buffered I am if I under-fuel in the race itself (which I have a tendency to do), and I don’t really have a problem with a full stomach (although I do recall spitting up a nearly whole strawberry after the swim…) That said, more experienced endurance athletes seem to eat less (maybe much less) and still function well, so I may be totally misguided!
    I usually eat that stuff about 1.5 hrs before start, which is enough time for me…hit a gel 10 min before race, and then gels and chomps the rest of the way. I actually think I over watered at the Philly marathon, and wound up making a pit stop, but probably better that than doing too little. I’ve learned that dairy, cereal (fiber!), fruit other than bananas (also fiber!) are all bad, and Gatorade makes me nauseous in a race, although coconut water is ok.

    • amen! and i am very jealous of your stomach – b/c although some athletes do eat less, a lot of what i read is the same as what you are seeing – take in as much as you can handle and you will be bonk-free.
      question – is the preference for tea over coffee because the coffee may lead to a visit from the gingerbread man (which is my fav new podcast, marathon talk, way of saying um, well, #2)? and i think it is also worth noting that you are quite a bit taller and weigh more than me, so you would naturally def need more! and that ill-fated bathroom break infested run i mentioned in the post? yup, oatmeal was part of that day! no more oatmeal for me before running! and gatorade gives me cramps when i run, but i still nab some when needed in a race and just grit through the temporary discomfort… and yay to commenting, thanks!!

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