Marathon runner

Race Day Nutrition Tips

Should or shouldn't you eat before your race? If you do eat, what should you have? Community Sports Medicine dietitian, Jackie Dikos, provides race day nutrition tips for runners taking on a half or full marathon.

Before the Race

Consider performance fuel first.

  • Aim for pre-race fueling to emphasize carbohydrate-rich food sources as well as a small source of protein.
  • Limit the amount of slow to digest fat and fiber as part of pre-race eating.
  • Carbohydrates - Protein - Fat - Fiber

Look for lemonade.

  • Aim for light colored urine before the start of the race as a sign of proper hydration.

During the Race

Take two.

  • Be sure to take two fluid cups at each aid station. A second cup of fluid will be very helpful if the first cup is inadequate for hydration needs.
  • Simply pinch the second cup shut while you drink from the first to minimize spilling.

It's not a cocktail hour.

  • Avoid mixing fuel sources. Take gels and solid food sources with water or electrolyte-only products.
  • Do not to combine gel or solid food sources with sports drink at the same aid station.

After the Race

Refueling after hard and intense efforts, such as racing, will support recovery.

  • Eat carbohydrate-rich foods, as well as a quality source of protein.
  • Gradually include healthy fat and fiber throughout the day.
  • Make the effort to refuel within about 30 minutes after finishing the race.

Look for lemonade (again).

  • Aim to return to light colored urine soon after a race as a sign of proper rehydration.

Replace electrolytes.

  • Heavy sweat loss racing requires electrolyte replacement. Aim to incorporate electrolytes through food sources and/or an electrolyte-containing beverage, like Gatorade.

Jackie Dikos, RD, CSSD, is a registered dietitian and a certified specialist in sports dietetics.