Foodie Friday – Race Week

With race week just around the corner (ahh!) I wanted to talk a little bit about what I do during race week leading up to race day!  Otherwise known as…


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I consulted a couple of my favorite go-to books to see what they had to say about the whole carbohydrate loading deal and to answer some of my basic questions.  The following information comes from either my running bible Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger or Nancy Clark’s Food Guide for Marathoners by Nancy Clark.  Both are excellent reads and great resources!

I am running substantially less during race week, so how should I adjust my eating quantities?

“The biggest change in your schedule during the week before your marathon should be in your training, not in your food.  You’ll want to taper off your training so that your muscles have the opportunity to become fully fueled.” – Nancy Clarks Food Guide For Marathoners

In short, keep your calorie intake the same and the calories you usually burn running will be used as fuel for your muscles.  Win! 

Keep it healthy!

What kind of food should I be eating?

Eat your normal diet “up until the last 3 days before the race and taper your training program to about half your normal training load.” – Advanced Marathoning  

Then the carb loading begins!  The 3 days leading up to the race start increasing your carbohydrates and do some short, easy runs to get your body to store glycogen.  Marathoners should eat ~60% of their calories from carbohydrates on a daily basis during training, so the last 3 days this percentage should increase.  

Don’t eat a ton of fat since it leaves “the muscles less fueled.” – Nancy Clarks Food Guide For Marathoners 

You should also eat protein with your meal (not as your meal) since your body needs protein daily and “endurance runners even burn a little protein for energy.” – Nancy Clarks Food Guide For Marathoners

If I am eating the same, but not running as much will I gain weight?

Weight gain before the marathon is not uncommon and is ok!  It actually is a good sign that you are fueling properly. 

“Your body stores 2.6 grams of water for every gram of glycogen.  The added weight is just extra fuel to help you get through the marathon, and the stored water will help prevent dehydration.” – Advanced Marathoning. 

What else do I think about?

After the race 

During race week I just make sure to keep my diet as clean as I can.  I get impatient and antsy and hungry, but I know soon enough I will be able to celebrate with the good (bad?) stuff.  I save the cookies, candy, and junk until after the marathon, and I often have it waiting for me in my gear check (not joking)!

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The other thing I really pay attention to is hydration!  I really watch my fluid intake during the week and make sure I am drinking water constantly, more constantly than normal.  Towards the end of the week as I get closer to race day, I start drinking an electrolyte drink like Gatorade.  Lots of trips to the bathroom happen this week!

As with EVERYTHING in running, finding what works for YOU is the key.  You should be practicing most of these things during training and before your long runs.  Nothing new on race day (or race eve)!

How do you change your eating habits during race week?

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22 Responses to Foodie Friday – Race Week

  1. Sarah @ The Pajama Chef April 8, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    i really don’t pay super close attention to any of this. i do hydrate a lot more before races and do eat a lot cleaner, but i just try to listen to my body and eat when i’m hungry and eat right. works for me :)

    p.s. i love that you have fun food in your gear bag! lol after my last marathon, we totally stopped to get DQ on our way home :)

    • Aron April 8, 2011 at 9:07 am #

      YES!!! DQ is one of my favorite post marathon treats :)

  2. Kim April 8, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    This is really helpful Aron! I feel like I always gain weight during taper and it sends me into freakout mode. I definitely always set out to keep my diet as clean as possible, but I have definitely been known to crack and sneak in a small cookie just to satisfy my sugar cravings. Good luck w/ the rest of taper & I am looking forward to meeting you next week!!!!

  3. Shannon April 8, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    All of those tips sound very familiar and very helpful. I love carb loading before a big race. I do need to learn to drink more though. A few times I have ended up dehydrated and that is a miserable feeling.

  4. Marlene April 8, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    MMMM the wine & M&Ms sure look good! Love that you pack treats in your gear bag!! I’m going to have to do that next time.

    Keep filling yourself up with all the good stuff. Almost race week! WHEEEEE!

  5. Morgan April 8, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    I’m right there with you, race week (and usually the 9 weeks leading up to it) it cut out the crap and eat extremely well. I don’t drink the entire training cycle though unless it’s an uber special occasion and post race I have a cookie and brew waiting for me to celebrate! Can’t wait to see you next week!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Kristen April 8, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    Race week I definitely drink more- I’m a hydrating/peeing machine :)

    I hope you’re staying somewhat sane. Enjoy your healthy eats, your extra water…and of course, those post race treats!!

  7. Nancy April 8, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    I don’t pay too much attention to what I am eating. I have always been nervous to carb load….I did when I ran Boston and it went well. Does a half marathon still constitute carb loading? I try to stay away from foods that are going to come back to bite me (literally) during the race! Oh and always treat myself after!!!

  8. Nitmos April 8, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    I find that’s pretty much true for every aspect of running: Finding what works for you. Someone cannot tell you this….through trial and error you will learn. It’s the only way to go.

    • Aron April 8, 2011 at 9:44 am #

      Didn’t you have a bad trial and error pre-Boston one year? ;)

  9. Corey @ the runners cookie April 8, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    I’ve also found that most resources I’ve read say just eat like you normally do, and I totally believe that. Why would I start eating different things right before a race and mess up my stomach? Or eat all carbs? I know I need my protein! The 2-3 days before the race I might consume a little more carbs, but mostly things that I know are easy on my stomach and make me feel good. My appetite hasn’t been as great lately (probably because of nerves for Boston!) but I’m trying to keep foods as familiar as possible.
    M&ms and wine is an awesome thing to look forward to after the race :)
    Good luck with the rest of your taper!!

  10. Meredith April 8, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    I used to never believe in the carb loading before a race. I thought the super heavy food was going to leave me with a major stomach ache and a slow race. I had a training run one Saturday, planning to run around 12 miles and the night before we had planned on having spaghetti and turkey meatballs.

    I swear I have never had such a great run. I didn’t over-eat, but I had just enough to keep me going for the whole run and I could have kept going.

    I swear by spaghetti and meatballs for the night before dinner now – especially for a bigger race!

    Love your blog. Good luck!

  11. Ana-Maria April 8, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    I don’t carbload pre races, since I take 5-6 Gus during the marathon. I eat the same things as before, perhaps a bit less, since I am not working out as much. But, if I want some chocolate, I have it, just like in training. Also, I don’t eat a lot after the race, my eating habits stay the same:) This is what works for me:)

  12. Joanne April 8, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    I increase protein a week or so before a race and make sure I take my BCAA’s.
    Just like you said, about 3 days prior to race day, I increase the carbs but I don’t eat 60% during training, that’s usually my carbo loading percentage prior to the event day.

    I refuse to give up my one glass of wine until the day before a marathon. Before my last marathon, we met a couple who were running something like their 20th marathon together and they had just finished endulging in some beer tasting. I saw them again on the course during the race as they BLEW past me. Maybe I should drink beer before a race? ;)

    • Aron April 8, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

      I do typically have a beer the night before long runs, or 2 days before (Friday nights!). Wine I can’t drink before big runs though :)

  13. amy April 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    Despite feeling super sluggish during taper, I still try to eat until I’m full and do it often. I’ve found my best long runs are those where I’ve had a ton to eat the day before, but all fairly plain, healthy and simple. I take that same approach to the entire week before the marathon. Same for hydration – if I’m not peeing clear every 20 minutes I think I’m doing something wrong!

  14. Susan - Nurse on the Run April 8, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    The week before a race I usually try to clean up my diet a bit, so I try to eliminate treats (or at least cut down on them…some chocolate is necessary at times). I always feel MORE thirsty during race week, so I drink constantly. I don’t really try to eat less since that just leaves me hungry, so I made sure I’m eating healthy foods to fuel me to the finish line!

    And yes yes, chocolate post-marathon is totally warranted and I may have to start stocking my bag check with it…love the way you think!

  15. Amanda April 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    I just signed up for my first marathon for this fall. I’m collecting information like this so I will be well prepared!

  16. Mary (Sisters Running the Kitchen) April 8, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    thanks for all of the reminders! Tapering always makes me hungry! I know next week I’ll definitely be getting even more nervous since we will be even closer to Boston!! ahhh! I love carbs so I have no problem carbo-loading! I feel like I’m always carbo-loading! hahaha. I do not really eliminate anything from my diet before big races. Last year I may or may not have enjoyed Tiramisu and a small glass of wine the night before the Boston Marathon…. hahahaha.

  17. Karyn April 8, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    i don’t change much (if anything) during race week with my diet. i mean, this weekend and next i ‘m not going to go crazy with the sweets (or, ahem alcohol) but i don’t cut either out completely. i figure my body is used to having the stuff and can handle it, right?

    and i’m usually famished during taper. when my body is under stress (both physical and mental) i tend to eat less so i think taper is the time i make up for it!

  18. the dawn April 8, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    i also cut out caffeine, so that those 2x the caffeine gu’s really make an impact.

  19. kristen April 9, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    I’m glad you pointed out that your decrease in training IS the carb loading. I feel like so many runners are mislead.

    I think it really comes down to trial and error too. Pre-race food is ALWAYS pizza. Always. Does it really make me perform better? probably not. But I had one of the best runs of my life after a pizza dinner so now it’s pizza.

    I love all your bottle of hydration. That’s what my house is like. Bottles of water stashed all over the place.

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