2. Eat 1-4 hours before your event. The best time will vary based on your individual preferences. Some people prefer eating a larger meal several hours out and having more time to digest. Others prefer a smaller but still adequate meal about an hour before. And others will eat several hours before, and then top off their energy stores with something small and quick a little while before the race starts (maybe a gel or half a peanut butter and honey sandwich). Again, practice during training to figure out your optimal strategy.
3. Choose options rich in carbohydrate with a little protein. You’ll want to minimize the fats in your meal (they take longer to digest) – though the further out that you eat your breakfast, the more flexibility you have with this. A few suggested options that work well for my clients:
- Cereal with milk and a sliced banana
- Oatmeal with fruit and a little honey
- Frozen waffles topped with fruit, honey, and almonds. (I like to use frozen fruit, and microwave it before putting it on the waffle – it’ll release some of the juices when microwaving, making it like syrup for your waffle.)
- Bagel with a little peanut butter
- Peanut butter, honey, and banana sandwich
- Quinoa or rice with 2 poached eggs
The specific portions of these foods that you should eat depends on your body weight and how far in advance you’re eating, with larger portions of the carb-rich items needed if you’re eating 3-4 hours out and smaller portions if you’re eating 1 hour out.
4. Choose grains carefully. In everyday eating, I’ll always recommend whole grains – whole wheat bread, whole grain waffles, etc. Before a long training session or race, though, you may find that a refined grain like a plain white bagel sits better in your stomach. Whole grains have a much higher fiber content. That, combined with the fact that physical activity aids in moving along digestion, might have you rushing for a porta potty mid-race. By practicing with different options during training, you’ll know what works best for you. Some people with “regular” digestive systems prefer whole grains because they know they’ll get some “sweet relief” at a predictable time in advance of the race. Others with a less predictable system may not want to take the risk of having a fiber-full stomach during the race.
There you go! I personally eat about 1.5 to 2 hours before a long run or race, and my standard choices are a bagel and a glass orange juice, or a few cups of cereal with milk. I have a sensitive stomach, and I know these two almost always sit well for me. Plus they put me at the starting line feeling well-fueled and ready to go.
Share with us: What’s your favorite race-day breakfast?
(PS - Need help with your sports nutrition plan? Check out the sports nutrition programs that we offer!)