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Pro tips for race day fueling

Last Modified: 9/26/2019

Sami Kauffman, MA, RD, CD, dietitian, Parkview Sports Medicine, provides some nutritional fueling and recovery tips for walkers and runners preparing for the annual Fort4Fitness Fall Festival. The right nutrients can make or break your race, so follow these pointers for optimal performance.  


While training for a race, your carbohydrate intake and portions should increase as you ramp up your intensity. The day before the race, it’s best to include carbs at each meal, as opposed to extreme carb loading the night before.

It’s also important to begin fueling early and often with the right carbs and portions. Don’t wait until you feel your energy levels dropping to start to fuel. During training sessions, practice eating or drinking carbohydrates every 15-30 minutes to prepare for race day.

Race day – Breakfast

Race day should start with a pre-race breakfast. The goal here is to consume roughly 100 grams of carbohydrates 3-4 hours prior to the race. Stick to foods that you’re used to. If you have an early morning race, you can also do this the night before. Hydration is also extremely important leading up to your race.

Some suggestions for your pre-race breakfast include:

  • a fruit and yogurt smoothie with granola
  • oatmeal with brown sugar
  • skim milk
  • almonds and a banana
  • low-fat cottage cheese
  • an apple with nut butter
  • Greek yogurt with berries and granola
Race day – Pre-race

Continue sipping on fluids to hydrate. Eat a small, carbohydrate-rich snack to top off your energy levels – 15-25 grams is all you should need. Some good options include:

  • sports gels/chews
  • a sports drink
  • energy beans or an energy bar
  • bananas
  • peanut butter crackers
  • cottage cheese and fruit
  • a protein bar and granola
  • animal crackers or pretzels
Race day – Race fuel

Continue the nutritional strategy you followed during training, sticking to carbohydrates, fluids and electrolytes, with the goal of 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour. You can get the carbs you need from sources such as:

  • sports gels/chews
  • a sports drink
  • energy beans or jelly beans
  • bananas
  • fruit snacks
Race day – Recovery

Celebrate! Your hard work and training is meant to be enjoyed, so indulge in your favorite foods in moderation. Drink plenty of water to rehydrate. If you’re looking for a meal that will help your muscles recover and replace glycogen stores, focus on lean protein, carbohydrates and vegetables. Be sure to stretch, sleep and recover!


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