Race Day Breakfast: What And When To Eat
As runners, we sometimes obsess about food. And rightfully so. We need to make sure we are consuming enough calories, focusing on nutritious meals to fuel our runs and help us recover. We also stress over, test out and plan what we eat during the run. Energy gels, sports beans, chews, or whole foods, the options seem endless. Then comes to timing and amount of “food” to consume mid-run, which is something that is unique to each runner. But what about race day? We often don’t think about what to eat as a race day breakfast until the morning is quickly approaching. We also might not know when exactly to eat in the hours leading up to that big run.
We know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And eating before the race gives the body that extra boost in glycogen stores needed for fuel to perform. The problem is nerves may get in the way, butterflies in the belly preventing the runner to have the desire to eat anything. Another problem is the early morning timing. The runner is either still in bed sleeping or awake in route to the race, but the last thing their body wants to do is eat something because of the early hour.
Skipping breakfast on race day isn’t a good idea. That breakfast gets the body and mind awake and ready to go.
Just like runner practice with gear like shoes and apparel and nutrition during the run, they should also practice with race day breakfast. Try a specific breakfast the morning of a long run when training to see how the GI tract handles the food items. Then make this a race day go-to.
Race Day Breakfast Ideas: What To Eat
On race morning, the runner should follow some rules.
- Nothing new
It’s very important to eat the same things the runner does during training and long runs. The last thing the runner wants to find out is that something they ate doesn’t agree with them while mid-race.
- Think simple but “real”
Don’t go crazy with a large traditional breakfast like bacon, sausage links, pancakes and eggs that could leave the body feeling too full, sluggish, and bloated. The worse thing to do is to eat something high in fiber. But don’t skimp and go too light like a snack bar or something with empty calories. Instead, think simple like a protein and carb steady blood sugar and fuel the body. You want something that is easy on the stomach, but full of nutrition. It doesn’t have to be boring or unsavory. Eat a real meal like eggs with toast or a bagel with peanut butter.
- Drink water
Hydrate beforehand, aiming to drink up to 20 oz. of water before the race. And this should be three to four hours before. This is to prevent having to use the bathroom before as well as having all that water slosh around in the stomach. Then make sure to have a drink of water or sports drinks before the run starts.
- Oatmeal breakfast is one of the best things to eat race morning. Try oatmeal with banana.
- Greek yogurt with fruit and granola is another great option for the morning of the big run.
- Some prefer to focus on carbs, so try toast with avocado or peanut or almond butter.
- Eggs with a side of toast is another perfect option.
Try experimenting with various combos like a small bowl of oatmeal with an egg or toast with almond butter and a banana. Add raisins, walnuts, honey, and banana to oatmeal.
Apple sauce, cereal, sweet potato, nuts, and grapes are all great options to add in. There also isn’t anything wrong with a sports bar or granola bar for those who can’t make breakfast before the race.
When To Eat
It’s best to eat two to three hours before the start of the race in order to fully digest the food. Some eat as early as four hours before and then eat a small snack and an hour before the start to replenish energy stores.
It can be hard to wake up then eat right away, which is why it’s important to practice before race day. Shorter distances like a 5k don’t require breakfast beforehand, but some may still want to. Those who aren’t eaters before they run can skip. Anything longer than 30 minutes of running calls for at least a little something to eat.
On race morning, get dressed and ready, drink a glass of water, the meal and head out the door. Arriving early to the race anyway, the runner has plenty of time to digest if they have at least an hour before the gun goes off at big races. This leaves time for the bathroom and some sports beans before the start.
- What to—and What Not to—Eat and Drink the Morning of Your Big Race, Running Website, Oct 31, 2017 ,
- 4 Race-Day Breakfasts of Elite Runners, Running Blog, Dec 19, 2017 ,