Now, let’s remember I am the girl who used to sit in the car and cry every summer before high school soccer try outs because I had to run ONE full mile in about 12, maybe even 15 minutes, in order to qualify to try out for the team. Cry, yes, I cried when my mom used to drive me to the track to practice, because I was not a “runner,” and I struggled to run that mile. I am also the girl, who really has never set a goal like this before and followed through with it. But like I told you all, when you say something out loud and are held accountable for it, you can make it happen.
I trained a lot for this day, I put my mind to it and I followed through with it. I learned a lot about myself during training and on race day and I can honestly tell you I had the biggest smile on my face when I crossed that finish line and may have even shed a few tears! (Ok lets be serious, I shed a lot of tears! Happy ones this time though!) I learned first hand that if you put your mind to something, you can do it and if you want it bad enough you will get it. I learned that our bodies are capable of so much more than we give them credit for, I learned that mind does really and truly go over matter and most importantly over all, I learned first hand how to fuel my body for success on race day.
Training and putting in the miles is so important leading up to the big day, but knowing when and what to put into your body to achieve the greatest output on and leading up to that day is just as important.
What I learned is that not all bodies are created equal. There are a lot of nutrition recommendations out there that tell you what you should and should not eat during your training period, but just like how not one diet works for every person, not all recommendations on the internet are for everyone, shocking I know! In this post I am going to share with you what worked for me on and leading up to the big day, but like I just stated, these are just another set of recommendations and not all ideas work for all bodies.
The general nutrition recommendations for optimal athletic performance state that pre-race or pre-exercise, we need a nice blend of carbohydrates, to top off muscle stores, and a small amount of protein to build and repair muscle tissue. In addition to this we want to be sure this meal is low in fat and fiber to ensure easiest digestion. This meal should be eaten about 3 hours pre-race.
I had to test out a lot of pre-run meals to see what my body could handle and what made me feel the best when I was out there. And I think this is something many people don’t realize.
Utilizing the basic recommendations, I tried the following meal options prior to long training runs:
½ Wheat Bagel with 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
1 banana with 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
1 bagel thin (plain) with 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
1/2 plain bagel with 1 tbsp low fat cream cheese
½ cup oatmeal with 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
What worked best for me? The ½ plain bagel with low fat cream cheese. This would have been the last thing I would think would be my pre race meal as it’s nutrition profile isn’t the strongest from the list above, but this is what my body was able to digest comfortably and what gave me lasting energy to power through those 13.1 miles.
Many running websites suggest peanut butter pre-race, however, each run I tried after a PB style breakfast was unsuccessful for me, I can’t stress enough how much I recommend trial eating runs.
Other options to try?
If you aren’t a big breakfast person, a turkey and low fat cheese sandwich may be a good option. You can also try a hard boiled egg and a piece of toast or even a trail mix made with lower fiber cereal, nuts and seeds. But again don’t try something new on race morning, test out your options and see what makes you feel best.
The Final Weeks and Meals:
During the last few weeks leading up to your big day the most important thing to remember is to hydrate yourself and get your calories in. No need to truly, “carb up” during that last dinner before the race, instead you should be adding healthy carb servings and calories to all of your meals and snacks each day leading up to it, so your body has adequate energy stores ready to go.
What worked best for me? Adding an additional healthy snack each day that either included a healthy whole grain carb or a serving of fruit and sticking to balanced meals for dinner (lean protein, whole grain carbohydrates and veggies). This method allowed me to increase my caloric intake over time and keep my energy up for race day.
The night before the race the only change I made was switching from a whole grain carb to white pasta with that meal, but my portion was very close to regularly sized.
Recovery Eating Post Run:
After basking in your post run glory, the first and most important thing to do is re-hydrate and recover (right after you take that awesome picture in your medal!). You have to provide your body with the fluid it lost plus the carbohydrate, which is the muscle fuel, you used up. You will also need to provide your body with protein to repair your damaged muscle tissue and simultaneously stimulate the growth of new tissue. This recovery should take place within 15-60 minutes following the race.
Immediately following the workout, watered down sports drinks, or drinking water plus a banana and some salty peanuts can do the quick trick. Then should be followed by a meal full of carbohydrates and lean protein, which is so well deserved.
When exercising less strenuously, it is important to remember calorie balance. Yes you need to refuel post workout, but, if you are planning to have a regular meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) within an hour or so of your workout, there is no need to have an additional snack. Be sure though, to make your meal balanced and to contain the necessities listed above.
The most important thing to remember is, the key to optimal performance on race day is individualization. Use the basic guidelines I mentioned and find out what works best for you.
I can honestly say….I can’t wait to run another!
Now, how are you doing with the goals you set? I haven’t forgotten about you all out there! Have you made progress? Have you achieved yours? I want to hear about it!
If not, use my achievement as an inspiration, if I could run a half marathon, anyone can and I am here to support you every step of the way!
Thanks for reading!
- Jenna A. Stock, RD
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