Whether you are an amateur or professional runner, tackling the 10-mile Broad Street Run course is no small feat. And when it comes to training for a successful race, understanding what and when to eat could be the difference between a sluggish run and a personal record.
Properly fueling your body does not have to be difficult or confusing. To demonstrate, I've put together an easy-to-follow guide to eating the week leading up to the run. The goal is to ramp up your carbohydrate intake and decrease fats and protein as the week progresses. Don't worry, there are options for the equal opportunity eater as well as those with dietary restrictions. I recommend that you choose serving sizes appropriate to your needs.
Your focus should be on consistency, so don't drastically change your diet. However, you can focus on cleaning up your diet and eating appropriately, if you haven't already. Balanced meals with an emphasis on carbohydrates are your goal . Aim to fill half of your plate with carbohydrates (dairy, beans, grains, breads, fruit, etc) at each meal. Don't feel limited to refined pasta and potatoes, whole grains like brown rice and quinoa can be really nourishing.
* Pro tip: Cook staples like rice, quinoa and pasta at the beginning of the week so you can easily incorporate them into meals.
Increase your carbohydrate intake a bit but don't overeat — instead you'll want to re-arrange your plate. If you need a visual of your plate, think 60-75% carbohydrates (basically an extra serving) that you can round out with lean proteins and fats. This will help increase your glycogen stores for race day. Make sure to eat something after a workout, as that's when your muscles are primed to store glycogen and need the protein for recovery.
Stick with foods you are familiar with. Consider having a large meal at lunch and keeping your "night before" meal simple and on the smaller side. Overeating can lead to an upset stomach and a poor night's sleep.
Fill three-quarters of your plate with carbohydrates like easily digestible potatoes or pasta or, if your belly can handle it, whole grains like quinoa or farro. If you are not used to a lot of fiber, the night before the race is not the time to experiment. Then add a few ounces of lean protein like fish or chicken to round out your plate. Drink plenty of water leading up to the race and avoid alcohol.
* Pro Tip: have a bedtime snack that is carbohydrate centric like some berries, a banana or a cup of decaffeinated tea with honey.
Stick with what you know and eat at least 1-2 hours before the race to allow time for digestion. Avoid high fat foods and fiber as they can slow down digestion, leaving you feeling sluggish. Easily digestible carbohydrates are important to top off glycogen stores. Drink ample water or even a sports drink (16-24 ounces). Be sure to avoid dairy if it causes stomach upset.
If you prefer a protein fix, try a scoop of peanut butter or a hard-boiled egg.
Not hungry? Try a smoothie with easily digestible fruits like berries and bananas, a squirt of honey and a milk alternative.
* Pro tip: For hunger pangs that hit right before the race, sip on a sports drinks or have a bite of a banana. Be sure to use the bathroom as the extra fluids will catch up to you.
Be sure to practice your mid-race fueling plan while you train. You can try energy-replacement gels or simple foods like grapes, dried fruits or even a honey stick. The goal is to maintain blood sugar levels, which can be achieved by consuming easily digestible carbohydrates. Most people need 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour, but don't consume this all at once. The last thing you want while you're running is a full, upset stomach. For hydration, have a few sips of water or a sports drink starting 15 minutes into the race, and every mile after.Slow down as you sip so you don't gulp air instead of fluid.
* Pro Tip: Don't rely on the sports drinks offered at hydration stations (water is fine) as you don't know what they are offering and your body may not be used to it.
Avoid eating a large meal during the 30-60 minutes after the race. Instead, have a snack that consists of easily digestible carbohydrates and protein at a 4:1 ratio. Something as simple as glass of low-fat chocolate milk will do the job of restoring blood sugar levels and providing protein for muscle recovery. Pro Tip: Avoid high fat foods post race as they inhibit digestion. Eat slowly to prevent an upset stomach.