What to Eat Before a 10K race

What to Eat Before a 10K Race

After months of training, race day is finally here. You’ve put so much time and effort into your training, the last thing you want is to be unhappy with your performance when it matters most. Your pre 10K meal should be high in carbohydrates and low in fat to maximise energy levels before a race, for example porridge with skimmed milk, banana & honey

Nutrition is fundamental in maximising performance and should never be neglected, in fact, it should be prioritised just like your training. What you eat and drink before and during a race should be practiced extensively in training prior to the event so your body is comfortable with any nutritional strategies. Turning up on race day with a stomach full of food that you’re not used to is likely to hinder performance.

Nutrition should not be overcomplicated, just keep it simple with a well-structured plan that prioritises a food-first approach. Here are a few tips on how to plan your nutrition and choose the best food to eat before a race so you’re fuelled and ready to run a 10K race.

What to Eat Before a 10K Race

Carbohydrates fuel performance but the body only has a limited supply and is stored in the muscles as glycogen. . Knowing what to eat the day before a 10K will help you be in your best shape during the race day. Carbohydrate loading is a very effective strategy in endurance events, and for a 10K race, sufficient glycogen stores can easily be attained in the 24 hours before. Increase dietary carbohydrates with each meal the day before along with ample protein, and reduce total fat intake to allow for the increased quantity of carbohydrates to avoid unwanted excessive calorie intake.

Gastrointestinal distress (GI) is very common in endurance athletes and this can occur by eating too many foods that are not easily digestible. Focus on carbohydrates that are low in fibre and have a moderate to high-glycaemic index to avoid feelings of bloating, flatulence, stomach pains/cramps, etc. Too much fructose (fruit sugar), protein and fat before exercise and dehydration may also cause digestive discomfort.

Avoiding gluten has become a popular fad/trend in many people of late who claim this to be healthier. Unless you suffer from coeliac disease, an autoimmune condition caused by a reaction to gluten, there is no need to eliminate gluten from your diet. Research has shown there to be no performance enhancing effects by eating a gluten-free diet in those without gluten/wheat intolerances. However, if you have experimented with different foods and found that eating a gluten-free diet reduces feelings of GI-distress and enhances your performance then go for it.

Hydration is also extremely important for performance. When we exercise the body cools itself by sweating. Starting exercise in a dehydrated state means your heart has to work harder already to pump blood around the body, so you’re going to fatigue quicker. Dehydration of just a 2% reduction in body weight can impair the performance, so make sure you turn up to the race well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water. You can check how hydrated you are simply from the colour of your urine – the clearer the better! Hydration also supports glycogen synthesis as water is stored in the muscles, so don’t worry if you notice you’re a little heavier the day before the competition!

Best food to eat before a race

Your pre 10K meal will be down to your preferences. If you can stomach food, a high carbohydrate meal (typically breakfast) should be consumed 2-3 hours before. Options for what to eat the morning of a 10k include:

  • Porridge with tsp. cinnamon, banana & honey
  • Muesli, Weetabix or other preferred cereals
  • Dried/fresh fruit and low-fat yoghurt
  • Poached eggs on toast
  • Bagel/toast with ham or honey/banana/peanut butter
  • Fruit juices
  • Smoothies

If you struggle to stomach food before a race then carbohydrates in liquid form may be more suitable. A smoothie, flavoured milk or carbohydrate supplements may be beneficial e.g. sports drinks/gels.

Pre race hydration

As you get closer to starting the race, sip on a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink and water to maintain blood sugar & hydration levels. Other supplements that may enhance performance include caffeine, beetroot juice (dietary nitrates) and sodium bicarbonate (Caution as this may cause symptoms of nausea, gastrointestinal distress and diarrhoea). Use of any supplements should be practiced in training!

Drinking & Eating While Running

A 10K race can typically last anytime between 30-60 minutes, and as endurance events go this is not very long. So long as you have fuelled properly with adequate carbohydrates before the race, you shouldn’t need to worry about consuming additional carbohydrates during the race. Drinking small amounts of water to thirst to replace water lost via sweating is recommended to maintain performance.

Eating After Running

You’ve crossed the line and achieved a personal best…straight to the pub, right? All the good things you eat before a race will not help you completely recover from the 10K run. Well, that’s up to you, but having something to help your body recover first is recommended.

Having 20-25g whey protein is sufficient to maximally stimulate protein synthesis, together with high-glycaemic index carbohydrates will quickly replenish muscle glycogen stores. This can be as food or drink, but obviously, fluids are vital for rehydration and are more palatable than food after exercise. To fully rehydrate you should drink fluids that also contain sodium and other electrolytes to replace lost salts through sweating and help the body to retain water.

However, rather than researching through all of the recovery supplements out there, there is a natural nutrition source that you should consider. So before you have a beer, enjoy a pint of milk! Milk is the ultimate recovery drink as it contains natural sugars, protein and electrolytes. Research clearly demonstrates milk to be better than any sports supplement for replenishing muscle glycogen stores, stimulating protein synthesis and also for rehydration. Flavoured milk products are equally effective and probably more suitable on the go.

Eating Before, After & During a 10K Race: Take Home Points

  • Increase carbohydrate intake 24 hours leading up to an event
  • Focus on easily digestible high-GI, low-fibre foods with ample protein and reduce fat intake
  • Hydrate well the day and morning before a race
  • Pre-race meal should contain sufficient carbohydrates with moderate protein and to your preference
  • Practice any nutritional strategies prior to competition so you’re used to it
  • Additional carbohydrates are not needed during a 10K race, just drink water to thirst
  • Maximise recovery with a pint of milk or milk-based product
  • Do what works for you and keep it simple

Also, learn what to eat before a workout

What are the foods that could cause Gastrointestinal distress in athletes?

There are many foods that can cause gastrointestinal (GI) distress and will affect every athlete differently. Some of the key triggers include:
1) Wheat
2) Garlic
3) Caffeinated Beverages
4) Dairy products
5) Corn Syrup
6) Baked beans
7) Lentils
8) Onions

How long does it take for your body to use glycogen stores during a 10K race?

So long as you have fuelled well before a 10K race you will have enough muscle glycogen stores to help you finish the race in a good time without needing to top up your energy during the race.

Can excessive calorie intake negatively affect a athlete just before the 10K race?

Consuming too many calories before a race can make you feel heavy and lethargic, and if overconsumed for too long (3+ days) can result in weight gain, thus reducing your running times.

What should lactose intolerent people take after a 10K race for recovery instead of milk?

Lactose free options include lactose free milk, soy protein/recovery drinks or nut based energy bars.

What are the easily digestible foods that can get you ready for a 10K race?

Porridge or cereals, bananas, white bread with jam/honey and fruit juices are all good pre-race breakfast options.

What are the alternatives to water for pre race hydration?

Coconut water, sugar free cordials and fruit juices are all good options. Including an electrolyte supplement can also help.

Why do 10K runners need to eat carbs the night before a race?

This is called carb loading. This is done so that runners have enough energy in their muscle glycogen stores to last the race.

Will drinking too much water before a 10K race affect you in a negative way?

Drinking too much water can cause you to need the toilet frequently before and during the race. So long as you are hydrated before the race (urine is clear) you do not need to drink anything during a 10K race. However, sipping on water available at water stations is fine during hotter weather.

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