One of the crucial decisions on race morning is what to eat for breakfast. Ideally, you want to give yourself about 4 hours between breakfast and racing (to allow food to digest and store the energy from the breakfast). While this may be ideal, realistically many races start so early in the morning that you are left with more like 2 to 3 hours to work with.
What I Eat Before Racing
When I race, I usually try to make sure I have eaten my breakfast about 3 hours prior. I am superstitious so I ALWAYS have the same breakfast on race day – a bagel and cream cheese. You want to make sure that your body takes in carbohydrates and that your meal is easily digested so you don’t run into GI issues during the race. Another note, if you drink coffee, make sure you do so with plenty of time to spare.
Pre-Race Breakfast Ideas
Cinnamon raisin bagel with some peanut butter
Who doesn’t love a bagel? Bagels and running are a perfect combo– lots of carbs to keep you fueled up, but not too much fiber. If you aren’t fond of cream cheese on your bagel (or it doesn’t sit well on your stomach), try topping it with peanut butter (Teddy’s All Natural Peanut butter is our family’s favorite!) for some staying power. You can also add sliced banana for some extra flavor and a little potassium!
A nice warm bowl of oatmeal with sliced banana (bananas are relatively low in fiber, which is a good thing on race day- trust me!) or a little fruit preserves mixed in. Since most races require an early wake-up call, prep some overnight oats the night before.
A breakfast smoothie or shake can also be a good idea–provided that it is low in protein, fat, and fiber. You want about 80% of your pre-race calories to come from carbohydrates. Protein and fat take longer to digest, and fiber–well, you know the deal with that one! That being said, it’s also a good way to get in some extra fluids before you hit the starting line.
Your favorite energy bar is also a good breakfast idea, as most will fit the above nutritional requirements. My all-time favorite energy bars are Larabars. They are made with only whole food ingredients (usually 7 ingredients or less), are healthy, filling, AND super tasty! You can choose from flavors like apple pie, chocolate coconut chew, and key lime pie to name a few.
An old stand by and frequent post-race snack also makes a great pre-race breakfast. As mentioned above, you don’t want too much fiber, so stay away from apples and berries and other high-fiber fruits. If you are a runner with a sensitive stomach, a simple banana might be a great choice for you.
A Note on Coffee
You were wondering about that one, weren’t you?! I have coffee EVERY morning, including race morning. I do not function without caffeine on board, but I know how my body handles it. If you choose to drink coffee race morning, I would recommend giving yourself plenty of time to use the facilities before the starting gun goes off or you get stuck in a LONG line of porta potties!
Also keep in mind that some flavors of energy gels contain caffeine–if you are sensitive to too much caffeine make sure you take that into account when you decide on having a cup(s) of coffee.