Nutrition for Runners: The Big Race

The moment you reach the starting line to run your race, you will want to run your best. And in order to run your best, your energy levels need to be high and your digestive system should be silent.

To feel great when running longer distances like a marathon, we recommend following a carb loading plan 2 to 3 days before your run. By eating more carbohydrate-rich foods than you normally do, you are essentially carb loading. Carb loading serves to stock up on a type of energy you will be using throughout your entire run: Carbs.

You can find carbs in grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy, and sugar.

5 Tips for Carb Loading

1. Add more foods rich in carbs throughout your day than you normally would or add a carb-rich snack that you normally would not have.

2. Reduce your fibre intake from harder to digest vegetables (this is an individual recommendation). Foods high in fibre content: legumes, cabbages, lettuces, onions, peppers, broccoli, eggplant, whole grains, high fibre cereals, and berries.

3. Drink a large glass of water with each meal. This extra hydration is needed when carb loading because you store extra water with each extra gram of carbohydrate in your muscles.

4. Because of Tip #3, avoid weighing yourself during this period. You will have gained weight, but it is the extra weight from your energy and water provisions. By the end of your race, your weight will return to normal.

5. The night before your race, you may want to avoid dairy products if your digestive system is feeling stressed (stress can interfere with lactose digestion).


What do I eat before I run?

It is important to avoid changing your nutrition habits the morning of your race. This is not the time to try some new product simply because it looks good! You just don’t know if introducing a new food or product will cause you digestive upset and affect your performance. Your tried-and-true routine is the best way to go.

Try to eat your pre-race meal 3 to 4 hours before your race. Choose foods that are very rich in carbs and low in protein and fat.

Example: 2 to 3 pancakes, maple syrup, a banana, and a small bowl of cereal with almond milk.

Should I drink a sports drinks or water?

During your race, you will run by fuelling stations. If you will be running for 90 minutes or longer, make sure to have a high carb option like a sports drink or gel when you get to a fuelling station. If you are running in high heat and humidity, make sure to have some sodium during your run (most sports products usually contain some sodium). As a rule, you should follow the same nutrition plan you followed during your practice runs.

  • Good luck my fellow runners!

If all goes well, you will feel energized when you run, you will be light on your feet, and you will cross the finish line within a personal best time. Eat as well as you can and be brave enough to experiment in training sessions so that you find the nutrition plan that works for you.

Why I love SOS Cuisine’s Carb Loading Meal Plan

They make the carb loading process simple. Their menus take into consideration your body type, age and sex and then give you a meal plan that you can adapt to suit your tastes. They allow you to eliminate foods you don’t eat such as lactose, peanuts, or gluten. Yes, it is true that carb loading plans can be gluten-free! The meal plans are also lower in fibre, so you will reduce your chance of having gas, of feeling bloated and diarrhea (runner’s diarrhea is not fun).

I look forward to hearing about your race day successes!

This blog is adapted from the Complete Guide for Endurance Athletes by Catherine Naulleau.
Guides can be purchased online here.

Pearle Nerenberg

The runner’s series was written by Sports Dietitian, Pearle Nerenberg – a foodie and an avid runner. Pearle guides active people and elite athletes to eat to achieve their fitness and performance goals. She has a passion for working with Active Families. You can learn more about Pearle by visiting her website:

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Nutrition for Runners (Part 3) | To give you an idea of how much food to eat at lunch and dinner, here are 2 plates that represent the ideal proportions for each type of food.