On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness news for all Oklahomans.

Preparing for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon: Pre-Race Nutrition

15 April 2016

Posted in

You’ve trained hard, waking up before sunrise to sneak in a few miles, or staying up late to stretch. You’ve had moments when you thought, “Is this really worth it?” And yet, here you are, just a week away from running your first serious race. If you’ve followed our training guide, you’ve seen your body progress from running just a few miles to logging 8 or 10 miles in a single run.

Now that you’ve done the hard part and accomplished many hours of training, it is time to relax and rest easy knowing your body is prepared. It is important to keep nutrition in mind, both in the days before the race and during the event. One of the most common “rookie” mistakes when running a race is to experiment with new foods before your run. From carb-loading to mid-run snacks, here is the skinny on a balanced pre-race nutrition plan.

True or false? You need to think about fueling the day before the race only.

False. What you eat and drink in the week leading up to your race is equally as important as what you consume on race day. When preparing for a long run, you should start adding extra calories to your diet up to a week before the race as well as plenty of water every day in the week before.

Brent Wilson, a registered dietitian at INTEGRIS confirms, “I can’t stress hydration enough. You should make hydration a priority the entire week before the race. If you have waited until the night before or even the morning of to get hydrated you have waited too long.”

True or false? You should carb load before a race.

True and false. A common mistake made by first-time racers is to eat a huge pasta meal with a heavy cream sauce the night before a race, in the spirit of carb-loading. Unless you are used to eating a meal like this before a run, try to avoid heavy and creamy foods. As you gradually add calories in the week leading up to your race, make sure you are mixing in other types of carbs like grains, starchy vegetables and fruits, in addition to protein. On the day before the race, try to eat your largest meal during lunch, instead of dinner.

Also, the last meal you eat before the race is very important. Says Brent Wilson, “With an early race like the OKC Memorial Marathon it’s easy to skip breakfast or not have an appetite due to nerves and excitement. Having a carb-rich breakfast like the examples listed below are vital to filling your glycogen stores before the race. If you think eating before the race will cause an upset stomach, set an alarm a couple hours before you need to get up to have your breakfast -- and then go back to bed until it’s time to get up and get ready.”

True or false? You should drink 16 to 20 ounces of fluid two to three hours before the race.

True. This may seem like a large amount of fluid to drink before the race, but it will adequately hydrate your system while still giving your body time to process the liquids so you shouldn’t need to go to the bathroom during your run. We recommend drinking water only before your run, stopping at least 45 minutes before the gun goes off, and then rehydrating at the water and Gatorade stations throughout the race.

Pre-race meal ideas

Now that we’ve busted and confirmed a few of the most popular race nutrition myths, what does a pre-race nutrition meal plan look like? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

The week before the race

  • Pastas with light sauces, veggies and a protein
  • Whole-grain bread sandwiches with extra veggies and a fruit
  • Rice with steamed veggies and a protein
  • Grilled chicken and a large baked potato
  • Cooked shrimp with roasted veggies and a slice of bread
  • Pita pocket stuffed with cooked lean ground turkey and veggies

Race morning

  • Bagel or toast with honey and peanut butter
  • Banana with peanut butter
  • Oatmeal with a sliced banana
  • Raisin toast with a cooked egg and juice
  • Pancakes with fruit

During the race

  • Over-hydration is a real thing. It is highly unlikely that you will over-hydrate, but be aware that drinking more than the recommended amount of water can have serious side effects and can even be fatal. Do not feel compelled to drink at every station along the route – drink only if you are feeling thirsty. ­
  • If you have not been eating during your training runs, don’t experiment with foods and supplements offered along the race course. Many energy gels and other energy sources can make your stomach upset if you are not used to them. However, if you are choosing to run with these energy sources (either brought from home or using what is offered along the course), wait at least 45 minutes to an hour into the race before you begin ingesting solids and gel fuels. Always take energy sources with water, not Gatorade, because of the amount of sugars found in these sources. After you begin ingesting these sources, wait an additional 45 minutes to one hour before you have another one.

A few things to remember before your run

  • Alcohol is a diuretic, which means you should avoid drinking it at least 48 hours before your race to avoid dehydration. If you are planning on drinking alcohol, make sure you are drinking at least 8 ounces of water for each alcoholic beverage you consume.
  • Race week is not the time to try out new foods. If you are used to eating a certain food before every run, eat that food before your race. It is important to properly fuel your body in the week leading up to the race, but in the 24 hours before the race, you don’t want to introduce new foods that may cause discomfort during your run.

Don’t be overwhelmed by this nutrition information. You’ve prepared, and you will do great! Running your first big race is an exciting experience that will leave you feeling more connected to your community, your body and your ability to do hard things.

INTEGRIS is a proud supporter of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. From seeing the lessons the kids’ marathon teaches about Oklahoma history to cheering on the athletes at the NW 30th and Classen water stop, we love seeing the community come together every year for this event.