How to Fuel Up for a Race

Fueling up properly is a crucial element of your preparation before a race. Unfortunately, many runners do not pay too close attention to this, and instead focus on their training, their gear and they running shoes instead.

You must know that running causes the body to use up and loose fluids, carbs and other essential units, which can cause both physical and mental fatigue, if they are not stored up properly. So, fueling up has a great impact on your performance at the race.

Re-fueling your body after the race is equally important for your wellbeing and for restoring your energy levels and boosting the repair of your muscles as well.

So, what kind of approach should you take in regard to your nutritional consumption prior, during and after a race?

Focus on filling your shopping basket with a lot of veggies and fruits, which are excellent sources of vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals and minerals all essential for your body. Also, make sure you eat a lot of healthy fats, carbs and lean proteins when you are fueling up for a race.

Here are some guides for the proper diet to follow depending on the length of the race you are running:

For 10K and 5K races which are less than 90 minutes

Pre-race diet: eat a small 400 calorie meal a few hours before the race, or eat a snack about an hour before the start.

During the race: such short runs do not require consuming any food or snacks during the race. Make sure you drink an electrolyte drink or 16 ounces of water a couple of hours before the race, and drink 7-10 ounces every 15 minutes during the race itself

Post-race: just eat a normal meal once you feel hungry.

For a marathon or half marathon

Pre-race fueling: you may want to stay away from the “carb-loading” thing the night before the race. Rather, try to eat easily digestible carbs, such as plant-based foods in the day before the race.

Nutrition during the race: races longer than 90 minutes require that the runners eat some snacks to keep the body fueled and to enhance your performance. Start at the 30th minute of the race and eat a snack every half an hour after that. You calorie intake should be 300-350 calories per hour. You can consume sports gels, sports chew, sports drinks and others.

Post-race re-fueling: eat a light snack of 200-350 calories after a marathon or half-marathon. You should opt for raw nuts or lean proteins. It is advisable that you weigh yourself proper ad after the race to make sure that you drink enough water and fluids to resolve the weight loss. Is a cold beer OK after a race? Sure, but make sure you drink a glass of water per beer.

For beginning runners, the diet before during and after a run must be balanced, and in case the mileage is increased, an increase in the calorie intake is recommended as well.

So, what are the best foods to fuel up before, during and after a race?

  • Sweet potatoes and bananas which are very rich in potassium. They are easily digestible carbs and will help load up the body with potassium, which is lost through sweating during a race, and is essential for preventing the painful muscle cramping which can often occur and hinder your performance.
  • Lean proteins, such as: turkey or chicken breast, eggs, fish, peanut butter, and others. These will help replace the glycogen used up during a race and thus boost muscle repair.
  • Whole grains will make you feel fuller for a longer time. They too are easy to digest and low processed carbs which are rich in essential nutrients.
  • Almonds are an excellent source of iron, which long distance runners often have a deficiency of. • Chocolate milk is a great protein replacement which you can quickly drink after a race to refuel the body.
  • Sports drinks or Nuun tablets will help restore the lost electrolytes and fluids in the body during and after the race.

Take the time to plan your diet before, during and after the race to make sure that you perform at your top ability, and also that you are able to complete the race in good form. Make sure you hydrate and supply your body with the nutrients essential for the functioning of your body and mind, and the race will become a much more enjoyable experience!

Robert Brown is a blogger, sports fanatic, and the founder of Runabees – a website where he and his team share tips how to choose and use quality running shoes for various footwear problems like high arches, flat feet, bunions or plantar fasciitis.


During World Cup, Registered Dietitian Helps Fuel U.S. Men’s National Team

With game day energy needs exceeding 3,400 calories for the average World Cup soccer player, it was essential for the U.S. Men’s National Team to have the proper diet to achieve success. Since 2012, registered dietitian and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics member Danielle LaFata has provided the team with the knowledge and resources they need to power their bodies through one of the most challenging endurance sports in the world.


“Since Jurgen Klinsmann became the head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, there has been an even greater emphasis on providing the appropriate sources of fuel and energy to achieve maximum success,” LaFata said. “By serving as a personal example and by bringing a registered dietitian on staff, we were able to transform the team’s diet and improve their performance. For example, snacks like candy, crackers, pretzels and fruit snacks have been replaced with natural peanut butter, almond butter, cashews, walnuts, almonds, fresh fruit, yogurt, granola and wholesome snack bars—all foods better suited for the energy expenditure of these athletes.”

How do you balance the high-calorie needs of these athletes while also keeping their diets healthy? LaFata, a board-certified sports dietitian, explains how some of her nutrition secrets keep the U.S. National Team fueled up in the humid weather of Brazil.

Proper hydration. Even the slightest dehydration will impact performance. Playing soccer in Brazil’s hot and humid climate increases fluid needs, and players may require as much as six liters per day. Electrolyte beverages, fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies all contribute to a player’s hydration needs. All contain vital nutrients such as sodium, potassium and magnesium, which are lost in sweating.

Food first. In a sports world of heavy supplementing, the goal of the U.S. National Team is to get their primary fuel from nutrient-rich foods. If needed, supplementation is customized for the individual, but food always comes first. An example of a meal three to four hours prior to a game would include whole-grain pasta with bolognese sauce, chicken breast, grilled asparagus, watermelon and pineapple.

Post-workout eating. To minimize muscle soreness and maximize muscle recovery, post-workout smoothies with the right amount of protein and carbohydrates are given within 30 to 45 minutes after workouts. One post-workout smoothie LaFata makes for the team includes 25 grams of whey protein mixed with water and one and a half bananas.

80/20 principle. Eighty percent of the time, athletes should eat highly nutritious foods including lean proteins, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and low-fat dairy. For the “other 20 percent,” there is some flexibility on what they eat. This can be 24 to 48 hours after a game or scattered throughout the week. After that, it’s back to healthful eating.

High nutrition with healthy fats. Players reach their high-calorie needs by blasting their diet with a variety of plant-based foods while also adding healthy fats through nuts, seeds, avocadoes and olive oil. The higher the calorie needs, the more generous you can be with healthy fats.

Healing foods for injuries. The United States team has dealt with its share of injuries at the World Cup. For injury recovery, LaFata recommends emphasizing whole-grain foods such as oatmeal, quinoa and wild rice. Other injury recovery foods include fatty fish, green leafy vegetables and legumes.

Visit the Academy’s Food & Nutrition Magazine for a recipe for one of LaFata’s favorite energy-boosting snacks, Peanut Butter Flax Seed Power Bites. And for more information on how a registered dietitian can help improve sports performance, visit

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at