Pre and Post Race Performance Nutrition
by Gemma Carter


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What you eat and drink before, during and after a race or intensive training workout can make a big difference. Learning the best nutritional strategy can improve your race performance as well as general health.

In the weeks before

This is the time where you need to be investing some time in making sure you are getting the correct amounts of vital minerals and vitamins. This will help ward off disastrous infections such as colds and flu as well as making sure your body is best prepared for what lies ahead. Having a wide range of healthy food choices in your diet will help but to be extra certain opt for a multivitamin pill supplement.

Downsize your meals

As you taper your training just before the race you should also taper your meals. This doesn't mean losing out in quality though just quantity.

Eat little and often

Small, frequent meals make it easier to digest and prevent you feeling bloated, giving you a slow and steady source of energy throughout training days.

Slow burn foods

Choose low glycaemic index foods and foods that promote better glycogen storage. Carbohydrates eaten with good sources of protein (such as potatoes with chicken, pasta with omega-3 rich fish and rice with tofu) are best, giving you longer lasting energy.

Get bottled up

Keeping hydrated throughout training by drinking at least 2 litres of water per day. This will help flush out toxins and keep your body working at optimum levels.

Eat early

Make sure that you eat a good 2-3 hours before training if you are having a larger meal. This gives your body enough time to convert the food source into an energy source that you can use to train from. If you can't eat before training, make sure to take a fluid substitute drink to keep you going and replenish energy levels soon after you have finish training.

During the race or intensive training  

Drink every 30 minutes

If your race lasts longer than 30 minutes you'll need to top up lost fluids at regular points throughout the race. This should be easy with drinks stations being common place at most long distance races now. If you prefer your own drinks however it could be a good idea to have someone to support you who can at regular points around the course hand you your drink.

Slow down through drink stations

When taking on fluids, especially at the designated drink stations, it is important to slow down so you can drink without choking or spilling your drink. Additionally, you’ll find these areas get quite messy with drink bottles on the floor and runners darting all over so going slow will also prevent accidents

The right drink

Water is brilliant on its own but for races over an hour and half you may need a sports drink for added energy.

Gel bars

On the go energy sources are becoming more advanced these days with easily transportable bars and small juices you can pack in you running gear and take with you while you run for those emergencies. However, be careful to choose ones that suit your body and digestion as some athletes find they disagree with certain products and this can cause a loss of performance. To stop yourself from being affected on the day make sure you try out different types in your training and stick to the most successful on the actual day

After exercise


The hard work is done now and if you pushed yourself to the limit your body will be crying out for some well earned rest! It’s very important as soon as possible to replenish your fluid losses and depleted glycogen stores. This is especially important if you expect to be training the day after as you will need to speed up recovery as quickly as possible!

Drink, drink, drink!

Start with water as this will be easiest on the stomach and most needed. For every 0.5 kg of bodyweight lost you'll need to drink 750 ml of fluid. Drink little and often, every 10 minutes or so.  A good way to tell how dehydrated you are, is by the colour of your urine - if it is a lot darker (dark yellow) than usual you are very dehydrated so take measure to re-hydrate quickly.

After the first few hours you may find drinking green tea a benefit as the antioxidants inside it are great for flushing out post exercise toxins.

Grab a light snack

Choose a high carbohydrate snack and aim to consume it within an hour of the race. It doesn't matter whether the snack is solid or liquid form, you'll have your own preference.

Keep eating healthy later on

After a few hours would be a good time to make sure you can get a good nutritious meal. This should consist of a form of carbohydrate with protein to promote faster recovery.

But don't overeat!

Choose your post race meal wisely! Even though you may feel like a fat rich burger this could hinder your recovery and make you feel more fatigued and bloated. Stick to healthy and easily digested meals.

Snack for eating on the move:
  • Sandwiches filled with chicken or tuna
  • Bananas
  • Bottles of water
  • Cartons of juice
  • Yogurts and yogurt drinks
  • Individual cheese portions
  • Bags of nuts
  • Fresh fruit (apples, grapes, bananas, kiwis)
  • Raisins
  • Carrot sticks
Easy meals to pack for after races:
  • Pasta dishes with tomato sauce or tuna
  • Rice and vegetables
  • Slices of pizza
  • Noodles and vegetables
  • Jacket potatoes with a healthy filling
  • Pancakes
  • Crackers and toppings

Article by:
Gemma Carter who is a fully trained fitness and life coach.

Visit her website at or email her at:

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