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You have trained hard and race week is finally here. Don’t blow all of your hard training by missing a crucial step to running a successful race: fueling! You can run tons of mileage, but nutrition plays a huge role in your overall health and success. Even the best training plan can't make up for eating poorly, especially leading up the race.
Soap box: There are two running cultural habits that can actually hurt your race day performance. One is the night-before spaghetti dinner. I am all about having some pasta - but only paired with lean meats and lots of vegetables. High fat foods right before a big race can cause tummy woes - and no one wants to spend time in the port-o-potty (at all) during their race! The second is the post-run beer. After one of your run club nights it is totally fine - but alcohol does dehydrate you - so stay away from it the few nights leading up to your race - this time is all about hydration!
Now that THAT is off my chest - before we get into the meal plan specifics, let’s cover a few basics of how I created the plan.
First, the food is simple: Now is not the time to try that new Thai restaurant. You want to keep heavy and spicy foods out of the mix this week.
Second, this is based on fueling you for running, and is not meant to be a weight loss meal plan.
Finally, it is not gluten/meat/peanut free. If you fall into one of these camps just swap out my suggestions with a like counterpart.
Note that you are using leftovers for some of the meals.
So what is behind these recommendations? You are spreading carbohydrates and proteins out throughout the day – both are important for muscle building and energy needed for running. The food is also mild enough not to cause stomach trouble during the race. I always caution to avoid a heavy meat sauce the night before the race (instead use a lean protein like chicken) as high fat foods can cause digestion problems on race day (and if you have been running long enough you have discovered that running can speed up your digestion – and not always at convenient times - as mentioned in soap box).
Not mentioned above is what to drink. I like a small amount of coffee before a run and chocolate milk after. Otherwise drink water – and at least 80 ounces of it per day – leading up to your run. Avoid alcohol or other diuretics for these three days and save the celebratory drinks for after the race – this will make sure you are well hydrated come race day (sorry to tell you but pounding water that morning is too late!).
DID YOU KNOW: Why chocolate milk instead of an electrolyte drink? Studies show it is a more effective recovery drink as it has protein in addition to electrolytes to help replenish you after a run. Also, chocolate milk is delicious.
Note that I do have you eating something the morning of the race. This is crucial, and a step that I am now embarrassed to say I often skipped in my early marathon days. I was always worried any food on my stomach would cause an upset - but I have learned through my own painful experience how important it is to fuel your runs. If you can't stomach the peanut butter, at least get in a handful of cheerios.