Nutrition guide for race training

Gearing up for a training run or upcoming race? Here's a step-by-step guide to when and what to eat and drink, including a sample meal plan

Before exercise

  • Drink 14 to 20 ounces of water or a sports drink two to three hours before your run to ensure you’re hydrated.
  • Drink 8 ounces just prior to your workout or run, especially if it’s hot or humid.
  • Check the color of your urine — it should be light yellow. If it is dark, you need to drink more.
  • Two to four hours before your run, have a snack or light meal (400 to 800 calories): High carbohydrate, moderate protein, low fat, low fiber. Good snacks are a smoothie, peanut butter and honey toast, oatmeal with fruit and almonds, low-fat cottage cheese, or crackers and fruit
  • One hour before your run, have a light snack, such as an energy bar or fruit (30 to 60 g carbohydrates). For an early morning workout, eat something smaller, such as half an energy bar or a sports drink.

During exercise

Hydrating: Drink regularly during exercise to replace fluids lost through sweat. Weigh yourself before and after a run to determine fluid loss, replacing 16 ounces of fluid for every pound lost.
Eating: If your workout will be shorter than 60 to 90 minutes, there is no need to take along a snack. When workouts or distance runs increase to 90 minutes or longer, eating 30 to 60 g carbohydrates every hour is recommended. Sports bars, gels or drinks, and fruit are ideal.

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After exercising

Fifteen to 30 minutes after exercising, consume carbohydrates, protein and 16 ounces of fluid for every pound lost, for example, 8 to 16 ounces low-fat chocolate milk, a smoothie with yogurt and berries, or a sports drink and sports bar.
Repeat 2 hours after exercising.

Race day

  • Eat a carbohydrate-rich meal one to four hours before the race, such as toast, bagel or English muffin with jam or jelly, cereal, fruit, low-fat yogurt, sports bar, fruit juice and skim milk.
  • Avoid high-fiber and high-fat foods on race day, as they may cause abdominal cramping. Don’t try any new foods, sport bars or gels on race day.

Sample meal plan for training

Breakfast:  Bagel or two slices of toast with 2 tablespoons peanut butter, fruit, 8 ounces of milk or 1 cup of yogurt

Snack:  1 to 2 ounces of cheese with six to eight crackers

Lunch:  Turkey sandwich (3 ounces turkey, two slices whole-wheat bread or bun, lettuce, tomato), pretzels, side salad and 8 ounces of fruit juice

Before working out:  Energy bar (200 to 250 calories), peanut butter and honey on toast or bagel, cereal with milk or fruit. For a long run, eat a larger snack/meal, such as a sandwich with lean meat, hummus or peanut butter, an energy bar and 8 ounces juice or a turkey burger with lettuce, tomato, side salad and yogurt parfait

After working out:  2 cups low-fat chocolate milk

Supper:  3 to 4 ounces of lean meat (fish, chicken, lean beef or pork), 1 to 2 cups cooked pasta with marinara sauce or olive oil, 1 cup cooked vegetables or 2 cups of salad

Snack:  Two to three fig bars with 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt

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