Picking the perfect pre-race breakfast

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After months of training, I am now three days away from running my first ever half marathon. I can’t believe how fast it has come but I feel so confident in my training and ready to run happy. However, one of my biggest concerns this past week has been how to fuel my body before the race.

I asked some friends and sought advice from Runner’s World and Active.com and the one major take away from everything- don’t change anything. I’ve known this all along, the worst time to try something new is on race day but I have a problem. In my training thus far, I really haven’t had much to eat on long-run days besides a cup of coffee and some water. Even when I did my 14-miler, the only thing I ate beforehand was a pack of Chomps and Gatorade.

However, I have fueled before some smaller races before with a slice of whole grain toast, some fruit (usually strawberries or oranges) and some coffee. This has always been a pretty good pre-race meal to me so I think I’m going to stick to this for the half as well.

After further research however, I had questions like, how much time should I leave between breakfast and start time. The answer I found from Runner’s World was at least two to three hours before. Although this will mean a very early morning for me (the race starts at 8 a.m. but I’ll have to be there at 7 a.m. and it’s an hour away) but it will allot enough time for digestion so I can start feeling nourished but not full and heavy.

According to the Runner’s World article as well I should sip water up to a half and hour before the race starts, this way I’ll be hydrated but not over-hydrated and have to stop at a port-a-pottie along the course.

Since I’ve basically already decided on doing my toast-fruit-coffee routine, I’m not planning on trying anything different but I’m interested in why this has worked for me in the past? According to an Active.com article, a solid pre-race meal should consist of 80 percent carbohydrates. The article said the type of carbs isn’t as important but many runners, like myself, tend to choose more bland foods like a whole grain toast or some runners like oatmeal.

Some ideas for pre-race fuel could be:

  • Bagel or toast topped with either peanut butter or a low-fat spread– many people eat this for breakfast routinely so it’s always good to stick to routine come race morning. Also, bagels and toast are chalk-full of carbs which are needed for fuel during a race.
  • Bananas– lots of runners love bananas as an addition to any pre-race meal (personally, I hate bananas so I can’t speak to this very much) but they have 30 grams of carbohydrates, low in fat and high in potassium which is lost while sweating during running.
  • Energy Bar– a lot of runners eat energy bars before a race but this is something you really have to be careful with in terms of not trying anything new. Stick to a bar you know that’s rich in carbohydrates but not too high in fat or protein (save those bars for after the race).
  • Shakes– there are a lot of runners who like to make a real-replacement shake before a race. I’ve never tried this but there are tons of recipes out there for these kinds of shakes.
  • Oatmeal– this is another good fuel-boosting carbohydrate option. It’s bland but won’t upset your stomach while racing.

I would also recommend drinking some kind of caffeine if you’re a frequent morning caffeine-drinker. I have coffee every morning so I try not to change this on race day but sometimes I’ll opt for caffeinated tea on race day instead of coffee (because I like cream in my coffee and that can be weird).

As always, DON’T try anything new on race day. A poorly picked pre-race meal could possibly wipe out all of those months of training and preparation. Stick to what you know, race hard and look forward to that amazing post-race meal!

What is your go-to pre-race breakfast fuel? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section below!

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10 thoughts on “Picking the perfect pre-race breakfast

  1. As we’ve chatted before, I have a very good routine of: gluten-free bagel or (homeade) waffle, peanut butter, honey, a banana and 2 cups of coffee maybe 2.5 hours before the race begins. Since I have celiac disease it’s very important to find good gluten-free carb substitutes, and these work brilliantly.

    • I like the waffle idea! Also, 2.5 hours before seems like the perfect time to allow for enough digestion but not too much so then you’re hungry at the start line.

  2. Perfect pre-race breakfast is sosoSO important! I went on the toast/pb/banana spree for awhile but I’m pretty burnt out on it now. In the market for something new! Sometimes a PB & SF Jelly hits the spot though. Quick & Easy!

    • PB&J is always a good choice too! I’m always looking for something new as well so I love hearing all of these suggestions.

  3. I usually go the PB toast or PB banana and tea route. Oatmeal always makes me feel too full. This definitely came at a perfect time since I have a race next week!

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