I’m afraid to get hungry. I think I can stand the fatigue and exhaustion but not my tummy rumbling. That is why I have trained myself to eat real food before, during and after a race. Here is what my nutrition looks like for a full marathon:
3-4 Days Before: I treat myself to good steak BEFORE the race. I know that this is usually done after the race as a celebratory meal but this has been a tradition for me. This also has given me my protein supply that will last until race day so I can switch to increased carb intake closer to the race.
1-3 Days Before the Race: I eat an increased amount of carbs but I don’t overdo it. I don’t like feeling bloated and too full so I try to still eat a pretty balanced meal with just an incremental increase in carbs usually from brown rice. I also start hydrating by drinking water throughout the day
Dinner Before the Race: I eat a hearty meal of rice and chicken or fish with fruits and vegetables. I also take in one salt capsule, to start on my anti-cramping nutrition. I continue hydrating.
Breakfast on Race Day: I eat a full breakfast with mostly rice and fish. My trainer calls it “pagkaing mahirap” (food for the pauper). I also take a banana, hot choco and a couple of salt capsules, especially if I expect to run in warm weather. I also start drinking my race day hydration concoction composed of water, Gatorade, a couple of dissolved salt capsules and chia seeds. Sometimes I replace Gatorade with Bayani Brew, my favourite all-Filipino all-Natural iced tea. I usually bring a bottle of this special drink.
15 minutes Before the Race: I take one energy gel with my drink to give me a good starting boost.
During the Race: I try to vary what I eat during the race. On my first hour, I take a Kind Fruit and Nut Bar. Then I take a Clif Bar on the second hour followed by a Chia Bar on the third hour. I have also tried eating sushi, pizza, onigiri balls and rice cake during a race. I am lucky that my tummy can take different kinds of food while running. Beyond three hours I take an energy gel with water every 30-40 minutes since at this point the body will start to have difficulty digesting and processing real food.
I drink at every station and alternate between water and energy drink.
I am a believer that nutrition is a big factor for a successful race. So far this race day menu has worked for me and I have not hit a wall because of this. I have also avoided getting cramps except for New York which was mostly due to the cold and my body not being used to a prolonged fast pace.
AFTER THE RACE
Within 30 Minutes After Finishing: I take a recovery drink of chocolate milk plus water. If there is beer at the finish line (like in Berlin and Chicago), I take that too :). I also eat the complimentary fruit.
2-3 Hours After the Race: I have a celebratory high protein meal like a burger or a salmon fillet. I wouldn’t mind dim sum too 🙂 I make sure that I also take fruits or smoothies that boost the immune system like berries. My body went through a lot of stress during the race and it’s easy to catch something right after because of this.
I highly recommend that you incorporate your nutrition in your training and not just wing it on race day. You have to know what works for you and listen to your body as you take in different kinds of food. Make it interesting so that you look forward to running for several hours, knowing that you will open a yummy treat every hour of racing. Happy eating on the run!