Fueling During Races

As the Race 13.1 Richmond nears, it’s hard not to think about race day decisions.

What to eat  that morning

What to wear


What songs to put on my playlist

What to eat during the race

I can’t help you with the music or clothing (I’m awful at both), but food, that I can do.

I see so many people at the start of races with their GU gels lined up in their runner fanny packs.  While GUs are just trying to keep you from bonking, they aren’t always needed and can actually hurt you.

Your body is perfectly capable of exercising for up to 2 hours with the storage it already has, given that you’ve properly fueled before.

So, what to eat before?

It depends (doesn’t it always?).  Find something that doesn’t upset your belly and practice using it.

Some love bagels with nut butter

Others grab a protein breakfast bar

Maybe a mimosa would help ease the pain?

Now, take this next advice as what I have researched and believe in.

1.  Stay away from fiber.  We all now what that does for you and as it may be good for your diet, not so much for race day.


2. Stay away from artificially flavored drinks, GUs, etc.  They just aren’t clean and NOT what God put on this earth to fuel you to the best of your ability.  Enough said.

3.  Stay away from FODMAP foods.  Another post to come, but here is a quick definition of FODMAPs…

are carbohydrates (sugars) that are found in foods. Not all carbohydrates are considered FODMAPs. The FODMAPs in the diet are: Fructose (fruits, honey, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), etc) Lactose (dairy) SOURCE

The big concept here is the word carbohydrates.  FODMAP carbs are those that contain wheat- AKA gluten.  So, instead of that bagel, look for non-gluten, easy to digest carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, yams, even white rice… brown will have too much fiber for a race).

You don’t really need as many carbohydrates as you think.  I’ve read forever that you need 40-65% of your diet as carbohydrates.  I’m really questioning this approach as I learn more about turning your body into a fat burning machine via eating more good fat.  Yes carbs have been toted as your body’s primary fuel source, but (and I’m working on posts detailing this) they don’t have to be.  In short, be weary of carbs with gluten, which can cause GI issues and noticeably slow you down even if you aren’t celiac.

4.  Add some healthy fats- coconut milk, nut butters, avocado.  Your body CAN burn fat as fuel just as good as carbs, it’s just a matter of teaching it to (again, another post to come).

5.  Have some protein, but not a lot.  It takes your body a lot of energy to break down proteins, and they aren’t really used as fuel unless absolutely necessary.

I ate a gluten-free bagel (easy-to-digest carb) with almond butter (fat) before the Shamrock Half.  I’ve also eaten a gluten-free egg sandwich (easy-to-digest carb) with a smashed avocado (fat) or a banana with almond butter.

As I type this I realize this post needs to be about 500 paragraphs longer… for another day!

How about during a race?

If your race will be under 2 hours, you can get away with nothing food-wise.  Hydration is FAR more important.

Depending on your size, you can store roughly 1500-2000 calories of storage carbohydrate. (SOURCE) That is plenty to get you through that under 2-hour performance.  When you go over that two hours, that’s when your body needs some help.  While GUs and gels are very portable, think REAL FOOD.  It takes much experimentation to find what works for you but here are some suggestions

handful of nuts, raisins, or other dried fruit

a portable from The Feed Zone Diet book

Justin’s nut butter (they come in a squeezable pouch)


Health Warrior chia bar (a little hard to chew, but very portable

So much info to share, but stopping here!  Remember, if you need a running coach, or nutrition one, I’m available!  Check this out.

How do you fuel for a race?


2 thoughts on “Fueling During Races

  1. vitatrain4life says:

    It seems like it should be so simple, but it’s just NOT!!! I actually eat dairy (gasp!) before a race. I like my Kashi cereal and a hard boiled egg. During the race I fuel with Chia bars and a few Chomps. I know, I know, but it gets the job done!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s