This post is sponsored by LARABAR. All opinions are my own.
You have decided to commit to running a race! Congratulations. Running races can be a ton of fun, especially when the weather is nice. You can choose as little as a 1 mile run or a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, etc. Besides running, you need to focus on optimal nutrition for your best running performance and to help you feel your best. Consuming a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fluids is essential for top running performance.
Eating your best can also help prevent injury which is common for newer runners. Specific nutrient needs depend on sex, age, activity level and size. Consult a registered dietitian or a physician for individualized nutrition advice.
1. The Day Before the Race
Many people like to load carbohydrates the day before a race. Eating carbohydrate rich meals 2 to 3 days before a race, according to Runner's World, helps build your glycogen stores, which gives you longer lasting energy when you need it. Complex carbohydrates are a good bet the day before a race. Aim to consume 60-65% of your total calories from carbohydrates. Options include pizza, pasta, bread, rice, potatoes and fruit. Skip high fat sauces such as alfredo or pesto and stick to a lighter choice such as tomato sauce.
2. Race Day Nutrition
On race day, it is best to have something to eat about an hour or hour and a half before your run. It is important to focus mostly on carbohydrates and include a small amount of protein and/or fat before your race. A good example of what to eat is toast with peanut butter or a banana with almond butter. The carbohydrates provide energy to fuel you through your race and the protein and fat helps it last a little longer. Other pre-run foods include toast, oatmeal, fruit, nuts, granola and energy bars.
If you do not like to eat before you run, consider having a beverage to give you some energy such as coffee or tea and, of course, a bunch of water.
Avoid certain foods right before a run such as meat, dairy and fiber. These foods may make you feel sick, weighed down or increase your need to use the restroom. High fat foods take longer to digest, which is not optimal right before a race.
LARABARs are a good choice because they are simple in ingredients and have protein and carbohydrates and some healthy fats. They are mostly made of dates and nuts. They can help provide you the carbohydrates you need during a race for energy.
3. During the Race
Unless you are doing a longer race like a half-marathon or marathon, you should not have to eat or drink during the race. Just focus on fueling and hydrating yourself properly before and after your run. If the race has water stops, you can grab a cup of water and take a quick swig as you continue running. I like to take a sip and then dump the rest of the water on my head to cool myself down.
4. What to Eat After the Race
After you exercise, you have about 30 to 60 minutes to refuel which is considered the "glycogen recovery window". This time is crucial in getting nutrients to your body to repair muscle tissue and replace glycogen stores that were lost during your run. Focusing on a 50-50 mix of protein and carbohydrates is the most beneficial to your body. A smart choice is a green smoothie including 1/2 banana, 1 cup milk, 1 scoop protein powder and a handful of baby spinach. This mix gives you the right ratio of carbohydrates and protein and the spinach provides a boost of vitamins and minerals to aid in recovery.
A 2006 Indiana University study showed that low-fat chocolate milk is a perfect post race beverage due to optimal carbohydrate and protein ratios. They found that it was just as effective as drinks such as Gatorade in speeding recovery time. Many runners choose to drink chocolate cow's milk or chocolate soy milk after a run.
5. Nutrition During Training
During your time training for a 5k, it is important to focus on a balanced diet. Choose whole grains over simple ones including whole wheat bread, oatmeal and whole grain pastas. Consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins and minerals to fuel you through your runs and aid in recovery. Include protein rich options such as lean meats, yogurt, milk, beans, nuts and nut butters. The meal above is grilled tofu, corn on the cob and a bunch of grilled vegetables. It is a good mix of protein and carbs plus a bunch of vitamins and minerals.
Adequate hydration is very important for runners. Runners should have 2-3 cups for water before running and 1/2 cup water for every 10 to 15 minutes that they ran. After a run, runners should have 2 cups of fluids for every pound that was lost running. Fluid intake should be high for 36 hours after a run since it may take that long to rehydrate.
Focusing on proper nutrition for running helps to reduce injuries and can improve your performance.