What to Eat the Day Before a Big Race

One of the perks of training for a half-marathon is all the extra food you can consume guilt free. 

Tracy Griffen has kindly provided an article for those wondering what to eat before the big day. 


What to Eat the Day Before a Big Race

So, you’ve got a big race coming up and you’re not sure what to eat beforehand? There’s oodles of information on the internet advising on optimum pre-race nutrition.

Here’s a summary giving you the juicy bits:

  • Preparation for a race starts with the tapering down of running the week before.
  • Regular stretching and even some core strength work the week before are useful.
  • Think about getting your body into tip top condition so you can run really well on the day.
  • Ensuring you’re getting enough sleep is also crucial.

But what about the food?

Personally, as a PT I very rarely advise clients to eat a specific number of grams of carbs. All of my clients have different eating patterns, preferences and habits, so I believe it’s distinctly individual what they would benefit from the night before. Traditionally the big bowl of pasta was touted as wonder-fuel, however with the growing proportion of gluten-intolerant folk out there, it’s good to think laterally. A big stir fry and brown rice does the same. Basically, you’re aiming to eat some starchy carbs to flood your muscles with glycogen (stored muscle sugar = energy). A baked potato would also do the trick. Eat well, but not too much. The night before a race is not a good time to try a new dish or restaurant. Go with something you enjoy and you know you can digest easily. It’s probably a good idea to avoid curries!

2-pasta salad

Pre-Race Liquids

Pre-race hydration is as important for your body as what to eat. Many people try to drink more water the morning of the race, but this is likely to make you want to run to the portaloo. I recommend hydrating really, really well the day before. That means no booze. Having a big freshly made vegetable or fruit juice will also loads you up with antioxidants (vitamins) that help mop up oxidative stress after exercise.

If your race is under an hour long (i.e. 5km – 10km) you don’t need to carb load. Many people actually go way over the top with carb loading and see it as an excuse for a weekend pig-out. Very unwise. You need enough food, but not so much that you feel heavy the next day. You do not need a big bag of gummi bears!

The Morning of the Race

On the morning, eat your normal breakfast, just a bit bigger. I’m a big fan of porridge. In fact I usually have extra dried fruit on mine on race days. Pre-soak it overnight to make it more digestable. I like to have an espresso before heading off – caffeine does have a performance-enhancing attribute, if used wisely. Sometimes you have to wait for ages for a race to start, so it can be an idea to have a banana just after breakfast (or even half). Take a disposable water bottle to the race, for a few sips at the start.

The idea is to prepare your body as much as possible so you will get peak performance. Enjoy!


Tracy Griffen is a Leith-based Personal Trainer and author who specialises in 1 2 1 training and personalising exercise and nutrition programmes.

She tweets @tracygriffen and is on Facebook /griffenfitness.

More info also on www.getfitandenjoyit.com – her book available at www.healthylivingyearbook.com

Healthy Living Tracy Griffen


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