Race Day Nutrition – 5 easy breakfast ideas
People often underestimate how critical a role nutrition plays in fitness. Proper nutrition can increase or diminish the effect of your training efforts. Strategies such as carbohydrate-loading are widely used by endurance athletes (find out more in the Low-Down on Carb-Loading) but a good athlete knows their nutrition plan doesn’t finish the night before their race. Race day nutrition, usually starting with the pre-race breakfast is just as important, as it helps to replenish your liver glycogen stores that have depleted during the night. Liver glycogen keeps your blood-sugar levels steady during exercise and helps stave off fatigue.
Fueling for obstacle races such as the Tough Mudder & Spartan Beast, is very similar to other endurance events. If anything, you may need to consume more carbohydrates for obstacle events due to the demands for upper body strength. Regardless of the event you’ve been training for, your goals for your race-day breakfast will be the same:
- Replenish your liver glycogen
- Make sure your meal keeps your bloody sugar levels steady
- Reduce the risk of GI disturbances during the race
Food is made up of 3 macronutrients; carbohydrates, protein and fat. The pre-race breakfast should consist mainly of carbohydrates since they are easily digestible and your body’s preferred fuel source. A small amount of protein will help stave off hunger and a little fat will keep the glycemic index level of your meal moderate, helping to keep your blood sugar levels steady. Aim to take on at least between 0.5-1g of carbohydrates per pound of body weight before your race; for longer endurance or higher intensity obstacle courses aim for 1-1.8g per pound. You’ll want about a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein.
You should plan to eat 2-3 hours prior to the race. Allow at least 1 hour of digestion time for every 200-300 calories consumed. Not allowing enough time for digestion means you won’t get the full benefit of the calories consumed as blood is directed away from your stomach and to your muscles once you start physical activity. Having food sitting undigested in your stomach can also cause nausea, stomach pains or cramps. If you can’t consume that many carbohydrates in one sitting then drinking a sports drink 30 minutes prior is a great option for an added boost before the race. It’s also suggested that between 25-30g of carbs should be saved for consumption 30-60 minutes prior. This is a good strategy for races starting very early in the day!
We know that the majority of your pre-race meal needs to be made up of carbohydrates, but it’s equally important to consider what types of carbohydrates you’re going to eat. Complex carbohydrates, like bread, oatmeal & fruits with some fiber, have a low to moderate glycemic index and are the best choice as they are broken down steadily. Simple carbohydrates with a high glycemic index are broken down rapidly, entering the blood stream quickly and causing your blood sugars to spike and fall creating an energy dip or crash.
Here are a few easy ideas to get you going. Enjoy!
Race Day Nutrition | Meal Ideas
1. Bagel, Peanut Butter, banana, honey & a sports drink
2. Oatmeal, banana, raisins, walnuts, boiled egg
3. Greek yogurt, fruit, nuts, raisins, granola and a slice of toast
4. Acai bowl, with apple, nuts, ½ scoop of protein & granola
5. Pancakes with honey, strawberries & greek yogurt
Feel free to reach out if you need some assistance with meal planning during your training or leading up to your race. We’d love to hear from you!
Campbell B, Sports Nutrition, Enhancing Athletic Performance, Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2014
Nutrition for Endurance Athletes 101, Training Peaks; December 4, 2012
Ryan, M, Perfecting your Pre-race Food Strategy; October 15, 2012
Sumbal, M, Rock the Race-Day Breakfast: 4 Simple Meals; May 20, 2014,