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.

5 Great Pre-Race Breakfast Ideas

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.

Energy Bars

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.

Jessica Morrison

12 Comments on 5 Great Pre-race Breakfast Ideas!

  1. Pingback: Lovin’ It Saturday
  2. I can’t do bananas in the morning – I just keep tasting them! I like oatmeal, ww toast with PB and honey, or a cruncy granola bar. If I have to get to a long race early, I may eat toast at home and a granola bar there. Otherwise I may get hungry before we even start!

  3. I am an early morning runner so I don’t eat before these runs. However, banana, toast, peanut butter, and oatmeal are all favorites of mine before morning races. I do have a 1 o’clock race in a couple of weeks and I am not sure what I will do for food before it.

  4. LOVE every pre-run breakfast idea here other than the smoothie one — I tried to run after having a smoothie just last weekend and decided that I just can’t handle it, going forward. It makes my tummy all jumbly somehow…and I’d had the smoothie HOURS before the run but it still sorta messed with me. Weird right? But like you said – choose what works for you and stick with it! (and now I want a cinnamon raisin bagel with PB, mm!)

  5. Great suggestions!

    I have only done one race, the Reggae Marathon half in Jamaica (and we walked it lol) but I had a bagel with peanut butter and banana before that. I’m starting to get a bad taste left over in my mouth after peanut butter lately before workouts so if we do another race, I’ll be sure to try the bagel and cream cheese.

  6. I’m like you and eat the same thing before every race and even weekend long runs: PB&J toast! I’m terrible about reading labels and nutrition facts, so I don’t know how great a choice that is, except the peanut butter! It’s on everyone’s list!

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