3 Pre-Race Nutrition Mistakes You May be Making

Can you have too much of a good thing? The sources say yes.

If you are like many other runners, you probably spend the months prior to a big race focusing on training. Along with paying close attention to how you work out and how often, you likely take extra measures to eat and drink well. Perhaps you are drinking tons of water, loading up on carbs and getting extra servings of fruits and beans – but is this the best way to fuel your body before a race?

Many runners lean toward extremes, which is not always the best thing to do before a race. Skimping on certain foods or overdoing drinks or other foods can have a huge impact on your performance. Here are some tips on how to avoid common pre-race nutrition mistakes to heighten your chances of securing the PR you are striving for.

Fueling Up with Tons of Pasta

You eat an extra serving or two of pasta the night before a race. You need to fuel up on carbs after all, right? And won’t you just burn through them the next day? Not so fast. Flooding your body with excessive carbs can lead to digestive issues that may send you to the portable toilet at every mile marker. Large amounts of any type of food will throw your system off.

Instead, eat moderate quantities of carbs for several days leading up to race day. Eat healthy carbs like oatmeal for one meal and pasta for another – and only eat to fullness.

Chugging Gallons of Water Before a Race

Drinking lots of water is good for you – but drinking too much can leave you not only feeling bloated but can dilute your electrolyte stores. If your electrolyte levels are off, it can lead to muscle cramping and weakness. In rare cases, a condition called hyponatremia may develop, which is a life-threatening condition that is brought on by abnormally low levels of sodium.

To prevent this, drink fluids as you normally would on the days leading up to race day. On race day, drink 16 ounces of water two to three hours before starting time to give your body ample amounts of time to process extra fluid. Then grab another cup or two of right before you hit the starting point.

Eating Too Much Fiber

Fiber is also good for you. Lots of beans, whole grains, and cruciferous vegetables should be included in everyone’s diets – especially the diet of a runner. If you eat a lot of these foods on a regular basis, your body may have no trouble eating it right before a race. But if you don’t regularly eat high-fiber foods, pre-race time is not the time to become a vegetarian. Loading up on foods high in fiber can lead to uncomfortable gas.

If you are concerned that fiber may be an issue for you, eliminate those foods three days prior to race day, including bran cereals and beans. You can still eat fruits and vegetables in modest portions. If you race weekly, simply reduce your fiber intake on race day only.