Runners add a good amount of pasta to their diet because they’ll be burning a lot of carbs—true. Eating a large portion of pasta right before a race will give you the extra energy to push through—very false. If you’ve seen Michael from The Office scarf down fettuccini alfredo to “carbo-load” before the race, you’ve seen evidence of this.
The truth is that your diet in the days leading up to a race and on race day will affect how you run. Let’s start with foods that you should avoid leading up to the big day.
White and Brown Breads—These carbs are not your friend. White bread is enriched and highly refined, meaning that it lacks the nutrients you want from whole grain bread. With brown breads, check to make sure the first ingredient listed is whole grain.
Juice—You might think that juice is good for you because it typically comes from fruits and does contain some vitamins and minerals, but in reality even 100 percent juice is often high in calories and sugar. You’ll benefit more from sticking to water, other zero-calorie beverages, or milk.
Full-Fat Dairy—Dairy items definitely have their nutritional benefits, but you’ll want to choose wisely. Go for non-fat Greek yogurt; skim, one percent, soy or nut milk; and feta cheese rather than heavier cheeses.
Nuts—Nuts are great for you when you eat them in small portions and they’re dry-roasted or raw. Avoid nuts that are cooked in other ways or coated in sugar.
Race day has arrived! Be careful not to ruin all of your hard work and training by eating the wrong food. Here’s what you’ll want to avoid:
Pasta—While it is a good idea to eat small portions of pasta and spread carbs throughout your diet, you definitely don’t want to scarf down pasta that day. You will likely end up having digestions issues during the race.
Over-Hydration—You will want to drink water before your race, but timing and amount is key. If you chug water right before the race, you will feel bloated and dilute your electrolytes. Instead, drink a bottle of water a couple of hours prior to the race and have a cup or two right before the race begins.
High-Fiber Foods—Fiber is usually a staple in a runner’s diet, but even if you’re used to eating high-fiber foods, you probably don’t want to risk it on race day. You could end up having issues with uncomfortable gas, especially if you aren’t used to eating such foods.
Nothing—If you tend to get an upset stomach from pre-race jitters and think it’s best to not eat, think again. You need breakfast to provide you with energy and maintain your blood sugar levels. If you’re worried, wake up a few extra hours early or have a liquid breakfast to ensure that you won’t get sick. You will want to eat something that you are used to eating for breakfast. Popular choices are oatmeal or half a bagel or toast with nut butter.
Good luck on race day!
(Advice adapted from www.runnersworld.com and www.active.com)