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Eating Before/During/After a Race: Houston Sports Doc on Nutrition

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

Last week we discussed proper nutrition for a training runner from the bird’s eye perspective. We talked about the relationship between calories and mileage, hydration, and how to divide caloric sources among proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

But what does nutrition look like – on a more tangible and immediate level – before, during, and after a race?

Today I’d like to share a few tips, some from personal experience and some from research, that any runner can apply to her routine (before, during, and after). Whether you’re gearing up for your first 5k or your next full-marathon, make sure to research and follow-through with proper nutrition before you take off.

Before the Run

In the days leading up to your race, increase your carbohydrate intake. Complex carbohydrates are especially important, as they are slower to release energy. During this time, stick to the routine you know. Now is not the time to try something new.

Immediately before the race (day-of), eat a healthy breakfast that won’t sit heavy on your stomach. Drink plenty of water. If you typically have coffee in the morning, feel free to have a cup – it won’t impair your performance, contrary to your assumptions. (In fact, Runner’s World has an interesting article about the benefits of drinking coffee before a race.)

During the Race

Hydration is a top priority. Also, make sure you are taking in electrolytes, as well, to keep your body balanced. If you’re running a longer distance, be sure to keep your blood sugar up by eating a snack mid-race. Remember from last week – each mile burns about 100 calories. So, if you’re running a full-marathon, it makes sense that your body will need energy stores replenished throughout the race.

After the Race

Once you’ve crossed the finish line, be sure to have a sports drink that will replenish electrolytes. Limit alcohol intake, avoid big meals, and focus on stabilizing blood sugar levels! A small healthy snack (whether you’re hungry or not) should definitely be a part of your post-race recuperation.

Have Questions for Your Houston Sports Medicine Physician?

To schedule your appointment at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, call (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your appointment with a Houston sports doctor online. Stay healthy, and keep running!
Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.