Don't Eat Too Much Pasta
It's the classic pre-race dinner, right? Unfortunately it can be too much for your body before the race. "The mistake I see is that people end up carbo-loading and then they overeat, which can make them feel sluggish and bloated, and they crash," says Hua.
However, carbs are still beneficial. Carbohydrates increase glycogen, an important resource that our muscles use for energy, so enjoy in moderation. When building your plate, Hua suggests that one half to one third of it be filled with complex carbs, one third should be protein and the rest vegetables. "If your system is used to lots of vegetables, then feel free to eat your usual amounts,"she says.
Don't Overdo Your Water Intake
An overabundance of water can be futile as well. While hydration is a critical component of your performance, too much of it can lead to cramping, bloating and electrolyte dilution.
Check your fluid intake in the weeks leading up the race to gauge how much you should drink the day and night before. "A good way to tell if you are adequately hydrated is to check your urine. If you frequently urinate large volumes that are light in color, you're probably drinking enough," says Peggy Pletcher, R.D., personal trainer and diabetes educator. If the opposite is true (infrequent, darker colored urine) increase your water intake.
More: 4 Common Hydration Myths
The Pre-Race Plate
While you should focus on eating as you normally do, it's important to get a few extra carbs the night before. Hua recommends filling one third to one half of your plate with complex carbs, such as pasta, brown rice or grains. Complete your dish, "with protein and vegetables—not overloading on the vegetables because for some people you can feel that bloated feeling, which can interrupt your race performance."
Morning of the Race
For Hua, breakfast on the day of the race is non-negotiable. "You have to eat," she says. "It's so crucial because halfway through the race when you're hungry or losing your energy, there's no food to grab."
The best race-day breakfast is going to be one you've been successful with before. Try a few sunrise runs if you're not a morning runner, testing various food and water combinations before each one. This will give you an idea of what works for your body when race day rolls around.
In general, your pre-race meal should consist of complex carbs, which will provide optimal fuel for your body to burn. Don't forget a little bit of protein to stay full longer, and plan to eat 60 to 90 minutes before the race. Some winning breakfast combos include:
- Bagel and peanut butter (If fats tend to upset your stomach, eat peanut butter two to three hours before the race)
- Oatmeal and banana
- Whole grain toast and almond butter
- Granola and fruit
Eat right and perform better. Find a nutrition plan for you.