2013-01-23 09.55.13

Banana peanut butter and jelly wrap with honey. Do not make pre workout meals more complicated than needed.

Ok, so there you are, at the starting line of your biggest race of the year. You are well rested and well trained; two of three key components to race preparation. The third key component that must be considered is your diet, which raises a very important question, “What exactly should I eat before my race.”


Pre-race nutrition should accommodate the energy needs of your training schedule. As race time grows near and your training plan shifts so does your nutrition and energy needs. For example, if your plan increase intensity and decreases duration your energy expenditure is high, thus making it crucial for athletes to properly fuel. It is also important to note that this is NOT the time for athletes to be losing weight, this is generally saved for earlier training periods or the off season.


Generally speaking, the nutrition guidelines for this training period are:


  • Hydration should be adequate enough that urine remains light hay or straw colored throughout the day.


  • Carbohydrate intake should fall between 5 – 13 g/kg/day.


  • Protein intake should fall between 1.4 – 2.0 g/kg/day.


  • Fat intake should fall between 0.8 – 1.0 g/kg/day


Ok, so now it is the night before the race. This is often a point of confusion for athletes. Even if you are carb loading you do not need to eat a Volkswagen sized plate of pasta and a loaf of Italian bread with a side of mashed potatoes. You certainly do not need to avoid every simple gram of fat, or do anything that wildly deviates from your well-planned sports diet plan. With some tweaking the ranges above are close to “carb loading” ranges, but unless you have tried this before I would not recommend trying it now. Your meal the night before should help to fulfill the dietary recommendations listed above with a few other considerations. For example, eat foods that you are familiar with and that you know are easy to digest, will not cause gastrointestinal upset, and keep protein and fat low to moderate. You want this meal to digest easily so that you can maintain your glycogen stores, not make you feel “heavy.” It is important that this meal be something that you have tested out before. An 8 oz hamburger with 4 slices of cheese, french fries, and a huge salad with blue cheese dressing is probably not the best option. A whole grain wrap with 3 oz of turkey, spinach, and cranberry glaze with side of rice pilaf, baked potato, and a glass of milk is getting much closer. And of course, maintain hydration throughout this time. Before moving on to your pre-race meal other recommendations to consider the day before the event include:

  • Graze” sensibly throughout the day on quality carb rich, lower in fiber foods to maintain glycogen stores.
  • Also, don’t be afraid to add a dash or two of salt to a meal.
  • Eat foods that are familiar to you, to through your system curveball now may lead to adverse consequences.


The pre-race meal is a very debated meal. Your pre-race meal should be carbohydrate based and low to moderate in fat and protein. Again we want it to be easy to digest and something you have tried before. Don’t throw your system a curveball. General pre-race meal should look a little something like this:


  • Eat 1-4 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight between 1-4 hours before the race. The closer you are to race time the lesser you should eat. So for a 150 pound athlete eating 2-3 hours before the event consider something like 1 cup General Mills Rice Chex cereal with 1 cup skim milk, 2 pieces of toast with 3 tbsp jelly, and 12 oz orange juice.
  • Drink 16-20 oz of fluids or sports drink about 2 hours before your race and then drink 7-10 oz of sports drink 10-20 minutes before the race.


It is important to note that everyone has their own pre-race meal. These guidelines above can certainly help but you should consider talking to a knowledgeable dietitian and use your training to tailor your diet.


Try this recipe as part of healthy, well rounded training diet.  The use of black beans provides a quality protein while improving the fat content and providing many other vitamins and minerals.

Black Beans, Wild Rice, and Mixed Forest Mushroom Soup

Wild rice veggie soup

Version with carrots

Wild rice and mixed forest mushroom soup

Version without carrots


-2 cups of black beans.  You can used canned or rehydrate them yourself.  If you use canned make sure to drain and rinse them.  If you rehydrate them note that beans will double or even triple in size when rehydrated.

-1 large red onion, sliced

-1 cup wild rice, dry

-1 cup coined carrots and fresh green beans 

-4 cups chicken broth

-1 cup dehydrated forest mushroom blend.  You can also use 1/2 cup each oyster, shiitake, button, and portabella mushrooms, sliced.

-1-2 tbsp dried rosemary, or as much as you want

-1/2 tsp each curry powder, black pepper, smoked paprika

-1 tsp onion powder

-4 cups water



In a large pot soak the mushrooms in 4 cups water + 4 cups chicken broth for 30 minutes or til softened.  Cook the wild rice according instructions and reserve, saving any liquid remaining.  By cooking the rice separate you limit the time the other vegetables are simmering and help to retain their color and texture.  Once the mushrooms are softened, chop any that are any larger than bite sized and add back to the broth.  Once the rice is done add it with all other ingredients to the pot of soaked mushrooms.  Bring to a simmer and heat til the vegetables are only SLIGHTLY softened.  Add salt and additional ingredients to taste.  Serve hot with a piece of your favorite, hearty bread.  Enjoy!

**Note: You may have to add more water or broth if you like soup with more liquid.  Also, you thicken the broth by making a roux and adding it to the soup.  



Leave a Comment