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Nutrition Prior to the Race

Whether you are running a 5-K or a marathon, you need to know how to adjust your training. Most runners have a plan for that. But what about your diet? Proper fueling before a race is equally as important.


The Plan

One Week to Go

For marathon training, start the tapering now.
As you taper your running training, plan to do the same with your diet. To avoid gaining weight, you need to bring your calorie intake down about 100 calories for every mile you don't run each day. Keep your carbohydrate intake up (60% of total calories) to keep your glycogen ready for race day.
Low-fat, high-carbohydrate foods such as whole-grain cereal, bread and pasta, along with vegetables and plenty of fruit continue to be great for your diet. Multivitamin and mineral supplements should be part of your daily regime.
It's especially important now to be consistent and to keep your meal times regular and not to miss meals.
For marathoners, at four days prior to the event , begin increasing your carbohydrate intake to about 65 percent or more of total calories. Liquid sources of carbohydrates, such as fruit juices or sports drinks are definitely doable. Cut back slightly on fat and protein.

For shorter races (5-K to 10-K), start the tapering 4 to 5 days before. Cut back slightly on calorie intake as you back off on mileage these few days before the race. Carbohydrate intake is not as crucial in these shorter races. Still maintain carbohydrate intake at about 60 percent of your total calories.

Three Days Before

At this point, your body should be responding to the training taper and extra carbohydrates by loading the muscles with more glycogen than usual. You may gain a little weight.

Two Days Left

During these final days before a race, try to be consistent in your diet. Hydrate as much as possible (drink water). Drink plenty of liquids throughout each day. Sports drinks at this time is a good way to get both fluids and carbohydrates.
If you are traveling to a race, plan to take food items with you items such as sports bars, granola bars, sports drinks, cereals and bagels.
Avoid alcohol. Stick with foods that agree with you. Try not to change your routine.

The Final Day

Get enough rest, eat moderately and drink plenty of fluids. Eat frequently and stay with familiar foods. Now is not the time to experiment!

The Final Evening Meal

The meal should be between 750 to 1,100 calories, high in carbohydrates and low in fat and protein, bland rather than spicy.

The Prerace Meal

Try to eat 2 to 3 hours before race time. Bagels, raisins, bananas, sports drinks, pasta and rice are great prerace foods. Of course, every runner has his/her own special snack. You may want a sports drink or a nutritional supplement drink. Plan to eat the foods provided at the post-race area.

Good Luck and Good Running

© Women in Motion -September 1.2000