What to eat before a 10K fun run

When it comes to preparing for your next race, whether that be a half marathon or the Real Insurance Sydney Harbour 10&5K, it’s important to plan your food in the days leading up to the big day. Not only will good nutrition affect how you feel and even your moods, but it can also affect your performance on the day, says Nutrition4Performance nutritionist Edwina Ekins.

To find out what and when to eat before a run, we asked Edwina to share her tips for what energy foods we should be consuming. So, sit back, take notes, and plan your race-winning strategy. 

What to eat two to three days before the race

In the couple of days before the race, Edwina says to focus on food that will give you energy. If you can, make sure that each meal has a healthy balance of protein and carbohydrate, plus one to two serves of a healthy fat per day. 

For example:

  • Breakfast: Two eggs and one to two slices of grain toast 
  • Lunch: 100g chicken and two cups of salad in a grain wrap (or with quinoa and brown rice salad)
  • Dinner: 120g salmon, a quarter of a sweat potato and two cups of vegetables
  • A snack: Greek yogurt with berries and 30g of nuts 

Remember, she adds, the actual quantity of food you’ll need will depend on a bunch of factors, such as age, gender, training load and muscle mass. So, speak to an expert if you’re unsure. 

When it comes to a 10km race, it is a good idea to make sure you maximise your hydration during this period, too. Edwina suggests drinking at least 1.5 litres of water in the two days before a race. Again, she adds, we all have different sweat rates and hydration requirements, so the best measure of hydration is the colour of your wee – aim for a pale yellow.

What to eat one day before the race

Add one extra carbohydrate element to your meals in the day or so before your race, Edwina says, to ensure you maximise glycogen (glucose stored in our muscles and liver for energy during the race). For example, if you’re race is on a Saturday, have an extra banana on the Thursday and an extra slice of toast on the Friday above and beyond your usual quantities. 

For those that have sensitive guts or get very nervous on race day, it is a good idea to cut back on fibre the day before to avoid gastrointestinal upset during the race. 

So, she recommends reducing any high fibre foods such as salad, vegetables, fruit, and grain bread intake the day before. Reducing your intake may stop you needing to go to the bathroom in the middle of the race. Oh, and try to avoid alcohol. 

What to eat the night before the race

For a 10km race there is no need to eat extra for dinner – just your normal quantity, says Edwina. She recommends white meat like chicken and some plain rice, or pasta and mince or salmon and potato. But remember, this is the time to choose a meal that you have had before, avoid trying any new food.

What to eat on race day

Race day! For breakfast there is no need to increase the amount of food you normally eat, says Edwina. Instead, just top up on carbohydrates in the morning prior to the race, such as a banana or a slice of toast. Try to leave enough time for digestion by finishing at least 90 minutes beforehand. For a 5km or 10km race, if you’re not hungry or are too nervous to eat, that is OK too, as Edwina says you will have enough glycogen stores from the day before. However, her secret tip is to drink 250ml of water when you wake up, so you are well hydrated but have time to go to the toilet before the race. 

After the race, it’s important to both rehydrate and refuel with some energy foods. Try to drink a bottle of water (aim for 250mls) within an hour, says Edwina. You also want to be having a carbohydrate and protein snack within the next one to two hours. The carbohydrate is to replace glucose or energy stores used during the race (glycogen) and the protein will help you with muscle repair. 

So, after you’ve thrown that finisher’s medal around your neck, and taken a few hundred selfies, reach for a yogurt and a banana or a tuna and salad wrap, to help your body recover faster for your next run.

Before starting any new diet program, always check with your doctor and clear any diet changes with them.