Friday, July 24, 2009

How soon before my big race should I eat?

My friend JJVW posed a question I thought would be good to tackle on Fit This, girl! Just because I love my followers and love topic suggestions!

She is feverishly training for a triathlon this summer and wants to know
When do I eat before a big race, 3 hours before? More or less?

Well, there are many different opinions on this question. The main thing I can say from experience is don't switch up your routine too close to the race or your could wind up jeopardizing your body's rhythm it is accustomed to.

A couple interesting factoids that I had not heard before are: in the day or two be for a big race, some athletes will actually up their sodium intake so that they are aided in retaining water during the event. I would suggest only trying during the training period or for a smaller race you are using to train.

Also, most people think of carb loading as being done the night before, aka the big pasta dinner, and this really should be done 4-5 days out as you are starting to decrease the intensity of the workouts allowing your muscles to rest and become loaded with the stored glycogen.

So the real question:
When DO I eat before my long race or event? Anywhere from 3 hours to 90 minutes before the race have a very light snack such as a hard boiled egg (my personal favorite and all around perfect food!) or banana and a sports drink along with plenty of water. Anything 60 min or less before start time should be liquid whether it is water, sports drinks or even sports gels, avoiding anything high in fiber like fruit juice or smoothies which can affect everyone's tummy differently... know what I mean?

For a race over 4 hours, you will want to snack as you go. Banana's, oranges or even candy can be helpful for those boosts of energy. Sports gels also, but always try these idea's in your training first and see what works for you. There are a lot of similar guidelines out there, but through trial and error, you can find what works for you.

Make sure to listen to your body when it comes to hunger, comfort, pain and injury. If your body is telling you NO on something, don't insist on GO. Whether it's a 5k walk, 10k run or an ironman we are all in this for the long run and want to be well on our way.

Good Luck JJVW, I just KNOW you will blow everyone out of the water!

© 2003 Preston Keres. All rights reserved.

Brian Shea from gives us his favorite pre-race dinner:

Bombay Chicken and Rice
10-oz can Chunk Chicken Breast, drained and flaked
6-oz box curry rice pilaf mix
14-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
8-oz peas
1/2 cup cashews

How to Make:
Prepare the rice according to the package directions.
After 15 minutes of simmering, stir in the chicken, tomatoes and peas.
Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
Top with the cashews.

Makes (4) servings
Per Serving:
Calories: 364 calories
Carbohydrates: 49g
Protein: 22g
Fat: 10g

Mary at is not a physician or dietitian, see your doctor with any questions regarding your fitness regiment or diet.

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Although Mary from Fit this girl is a CPT, always consult your physician or health care provider before beginning any nutrition or exercise program. Use of the programs, advice, and information contained in this website is at the sole choice and risk of the reader.