Keep Blood Sugar Levels Stable and Hunger at Bay
When you wake up in the morning, your body is in a fasted state and your liver glycogen stores are depleted. A small meal upon waking will allow you to replenish those stores and thus stabilize your blood sugar levels so that you don't feel shaky at the start line. Depending on how early your race is, your pre-race meal should be two hours or more before the start time. If you only have about two hours, aim for a small meal that's around 300 to 400 calories (how many calories depends on your size and how long you have to digest the meal).
This meal should focus predominantly on low-fiber carbohydrate sources with a little bit of protein to bring your blood sugar back up. Some good options include:
- A slice of toast with banana and peanut butter
- A small bowl of oatmeal with a glass of milk
- A bagel with a tablespoon of light cream cheese
For those who may have a reduced appetite or are too nervous to eat solid foods, other options include:
- A fruit smoothie made with frozen berries, Greek yogurt and a little bit of juice
- A meal replacement shake such as Ensure or Boost
- A sports drink with an energy bar
The best way to know what will work best for you is to try out different meals before your training runs. Pay attention to your hunger, energy levels, and most importantly, how your stomach feels. Every runner is different so it's important to do a little experimenting and find your own go-to meal.
What to Eat After the Race
The last thing to think about when going into a 5K is your post-race nutrition plan. Many races end with a beer tent and tables full of goodies. While it's important to have a post-race snack and take the time to celebrate your accomplishment, too much indulgence can lead to a drastic over consumption of calories. A 5K is 3.1 miles long and most runners will burn around 300 to 400 calories. Keep in mind what your overall nutrition goals are and put this into perspective when deciding how much to treat yourself after a race.
More: The Skinny on Proteins, Carbs and Fats
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