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What to Eat on Race Day


Everyone knows the importance of training and conditioning when preparing for a race.

But all that training and preparation can be undone if you don’t have the right fuel in your system on the actual day, and it’s important to consider not only WHAT you’re going to eat, but WHEN.


As the cliché goes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But although many people would recommend having your pre-race breakfast a good 4 hours (at least) prior to the starter’s pistol, not everyone is going to be willing, or able, to get up in time to make this practical.

Thankfully it’s still possible to have your breakfast around two hours before everything starts, without impeding your performance. You just have to make sure you eat the right stuff, and the right amount.

Obviously the length of your race will be a factor. The longer your race, the larger your breakfast should be. But, as a rule of thumb, if you plan on having your breakfast about 2 hours before the start of the race, a meal of around 300 to 400 calories should be about right.

For example, a bowl of porridge or oatmeal made with low-fat milk, or a couple of slices of wholegrain toast, are a good place to start. You can even add some fruit to your porridge, or some almond or peanut butter to your toast, to make it a bit more interesting if you like.

Whatever you go for, try to keep the carbs high, the protein and fat low, and make sure you keep hydrated!


Depending on your nerves (don’t worry, we all get them) you may want to consider having something small to eat right before the race starts – say about half an hour before.

A small yoghurt or half a banana are both good choices, as both are easy to carry and easy to digest, with the latter in particular providing you with some extra potassium to help replace what you’re probably going to lose in sweat very soon!

Oh, and did I mention that you’re definitely going to want to stay hydrated? Sipping water at a slow and steady rate is the ideal way to do this, although some people may go for an isotonic sports drink instead.


First things first – hydrate! This is where those isotonic drinks really come in handy. Or, if all else fails, fall back on good old water. But remember to sip, not gulp.

This is also a good time, if your stomach is ready, to have the second half of that banana from earlier, to help replace your body’s store of potassium and carbohydrates.

Then, when it’s finally time for your post-race meal, make sure you get a good mix of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, so as to help your muscles recover, replenish your body’s natural energy stores, and to keep your joints in tip-top condition. A nicely-cooked chicken breast or cut of salmon (or their vegetarian equivalent), with some brown rice or a baked potato, accompanied by a nice mixed salad or a selection of green, leafy vegetables, is a good place to start – but feel free to get a little creative as you get more confident!

In conclusion although it can be a little confusing sorting through all the different recommendations online for what, where, when, and how you should be eating on race day, the examples laid out below should be useful no matter what your skill level or race type, and should form a solid foundation from which you can build your own personalised race-day diet.

Breakfast (2-3 hours before race-time)

One bowl of porridge or oatmeal, made with low fat milk (add slices of fruit – apple, banana, avocado – or a handful of berries, if you want)


Bagel/English muffin/wholegrain toast (top with almond or peanut butter, or reduced-fat cream cheese as needed)

Pre-Race (30 mins before race-time)

Small yoghurt


Half a banana

Post-Race (approximately 1 hour afterwards)

Chicken breast/salmon steak

Brown rice/baked potato

Mixed salad/mixed, leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, etc)