What to eat on race day

What To Eat On Race Day

Training is finished.  Your adrenaline is pumping.  Race day is here!  As you go through your final race day checklist, one of the big things that stands out is always: WHAT TO EAT ON RACE DAY?  For most runners, this question primarily focuses on what to eat the morning of a race for BREAKFAST specifically.  There are several key characteristics that should be included in any good pre race meal.  

What to eat on race day

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What to Eat on Race Day


Here’s what your pre race meal should include:

  • Proteins – protein smoothie, eggs, oats, peanut butter
  • Healthy Carbs – sweet potato hash, protein pancakes, granola, whole grains
  • Whole Grains – whole grain toast, whole grain cereal
  • Fruits and Veggies- bananas, berries, avocados
  • Hydration – water, electrolyte drinks, coffee



Examples of What to Eat the Morning of a Race for BREAKFAST


Since breakfast is the most common pre race meal for most runners, here are a few favorite pre race breakfast ideas that incorporate the qualities listed above.

  • Whole grain toast with a fried egg
  • Whole grain toast with avocado slices
  • Oatmeal with peanut butter mixed in
  • Bagel with peanut butter and bananas
  • Whole grain cereal with low fat milk and fruit
  • Sweet potato hash and protein pancakes
  • Scrambled eggs and fruits like berries, bananas, and dried fruit


What to eat on race day



What NOT to Eat on Race Day


Here’s what your pre race meal should NOT include:

  • Overly sugary foods
  • Overly fatty / greasy foods
  • Heavy dairy
  • High fiber
  • More commonly indigestible or irritable foods (which include high sugar, greasy, dairy, or fibrous foods)
  • Anything you haven’t eaten and tested out during your training runs



Tips for HOW to Eat on Race Day


Now that you know what specific foods you should include and which you should avoid, here’s a few tips for implementing a race day fueling plan.  

  • EAT EARLY – experts recommend eating 2 – 3 hours before the start of your race, in order for your food to be fully digested
  • DON’T EXPERIMENT – I’ve seen this exact scenario play out countless times, and I’ve fallen victim to it myself a couple of times.  You show up to the race expo the day before your race to pick up your packet and bib.  You overhear other runners talking about a new fuel or supplement they tried that worked wonders for them, and you just HAVE to try it. Or you pick up some hot new item from one of the vendors from the expo.  Bottom line: you didn’t try it out during your training.  Know what works for you ahead of time, and don’t try anything new right before your race.  
  • LIMIT HIGH DAIRY, HIGH FIBER, and HIGH GREASY FATS – these 3 particular groups can be more indigestible. Moderation is the key.  And being sure that these 3 groups haven’t caused issues in the past during your long practice runs.  Know what works for you before race day morning.  
  • THE CASE for CAFFEINE – studies have shown that those who drink caffeine before a run tend to perform better.  On the other hand, runners who overindulge, or drink caffeine before a run when that is not their normal routine, can get jittery.  If you responded well to drinking caffeine before your long training runs, then do what you’ve done on race day. If you don’t normally drink caffeine before a long run, then don’t do so on the morning of your race!
  • HYDRATION – chugging an entire water bottle 5 minutes before the start of your race is not recommended.  Nobody wants to start a race with a “sloshy” stomach.  You should be proactively and consistently hydrating during the training months leading up to your race, especially in the days leading up to your race, and the morning of your race.  You can also consider electrolyte drinks as well.


And don’t forget about what to eat on race day DURING your actual race!  If you are going for a longer distance goal, like a half marathon, marathon, or longer, most likely you are going to need to fuel during your race.  The snacks you use to fuel during your race should mimic the foods you eat on race day morning in many ways.  Plus a few extra considerations.

  • High Energy
  • Easily Digestible
  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Minimal Trash


Again, know what works for you based on your prior training.  Don’t experiment with anything new.  So what are a few of my favorite racing snacks?

  • Honey Stinger Stroopwafels
  • Squeezable applesauce pouches
  • Squeezable peanut butter pouches
  • Energy Gels and/or Energy Chews
  • RX Bars
  • Bananas (I don’t usually pack these, as they don’t hold up well, but I will eat them if provided by an aid station)
  • Dried fruit like dried cranberries, cherries, or raisins
  • Gummy bears (there’s no fat or fiber in these – I may eat them in moderation during a run, often just for a texture change and morale boost)
  • Pretzels (good for sodium)
  • PB and J (again I don’t usually pack these on me since they would get easily smashed, but I will eat one if provided at an aid station)
  • Pickles
  • Drinks – water of course, but also consider electrolyte drinks, coconut water, or even a quick pickle juice shot!


It’s true, some runners swear by Pringles chips, pickle juice, and Snickers in the middle of a race.  Others stay true to bananas and water. There’s no hard and fast rules.  When it comes to the middle of your race, do what you know has worked for you in the past.  Coaches universally tend to agree that one of the biggest mistakes runners make on race day is trying something new.  Avoid some of the same “iffy” qualities, like heavy dairy or high fiber.


Also, consider that many longer races, like half marathons and marathons, will have aid stations along the course that will be stocked with snacks, water, and electrolyte drinks.  It is quite common to see aid stations supply small pb and j sandwiches, Oreo cookies, pickles and pickle juice, fruit snacks, chips, bananas, energy gels, and fruit pouches, just to name a few.  As part of your preparation, be sure to know your course and your aid stations if you plan to utilize them for race fueling.  



How OFTEN to Eat on Race Day


If you are going to be running longer than an hour or so, you will more than likely want to fuel during the race.  A snack every hour for longer races like half marathons and marathons should be your target.  And of course, don’t forget to hydrate consistently.  


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