by Grace Mescall
Running a big race such as a marathon takes a lot of training and planning, not only in terms of when you’ll do your long run but also in what you’ll be eating, especially the night before.
As a kid, my mom would constantly be cooking up her special “runners spaghetti” which consisted of spaghetti noodles, olive oil, tomatoes and a few other ingredients. She called it this because in comparison to her normal spaghetti, it was much lighter but still contained lots of carbohydrates. So per tradition, for my first half marathon my mom took my oldest sister and I to an Italian restaurant located in downtown Austin. It was there that I partook in the tradition of eating pasta before a big race. My love for running and eating Italian food had finally met but I started to wonder, do other runners eat pasta too, or is it just a family tradition.
To see whether or not the tradition of eating pasta was true for other runners I turned to the experts; Joy, who just ran her first Austin Marathon and Alex, Texas Running Clubs’ current president who just competed in the Austin Half Marathon.
Joy: What do you eat the night/days leading up to a big race?
“I actually did some reading on how to carbo load because I didn’t really do that for the half marathon last year. Learned that you should begin carbo-loading about 2-3 days out of the big race. So it was basically adjusting my diet to be 85% - 95% of carbs (which wasn’t too hard). The night before a big race I usually will eat something high-carb and low fat. I went to Hank’s the night before and ate their pesto rice bowl. I don’t do crazy portions, and focus more on the ratio of carbs to fat/protein.”
What is your favorite meal to eat in order to prepare for race day and why?
“ The day of the race I like to eat Dave’s Killer Bread plain bagels. They’re easy to digest and have a little bit more protein than other bagels. I eat it without cream cheese because I don’t want to risk it messing with my stomach during the run. Also because eating something high in fat before a workout is what usually leads to the likelihood for someone to get nauseous and throw up! I don’t drink a crazy amount of water either the morning of the race because I know I’ll be hydrating plenty while running and sweating it out. I basically avoid at all costs any reason of having to go to the bathroom right before or during a race.”
Alex: What do you eat the night/days leading up to a big race? What is your favorite meal to eat in order to prepare for race day and why?
“Before a race, nutrition is very important. I make sure I eat plenty of complex carbohydrates (like brown rice and other whole grains) the day before a race, and I make sure I am regularly drinking a lot of water from a couple days before the race on up until the gun goes off. The night before I generally eat a big whole-grain pasta dish with plenty of vegetables and a light amount of protein like 2-3 eggs or a can of beans, and 3 hours before the race I like to eat a small bowl of oatmeal in almond milk with a scoop or two of peanut butter along with a glass of beet juice to increase blood flow and lower blood pressure. The complex carbohydrates help replenish your glycemic stores for long-term energy. 45 minutes out, I like to eat half of a Cliff bar to stay light but not be hungry, and 20 minutes out I like to eat a couple of energy chews or an energy gel to get some rapidly accessible energy to start the race. There is a lot of exercise and nutrition science that is not well agreed upon in the scientific community yet, so try to find out what works best for you to fuel your body with before a race. The key is to be cognizant of your diet in advance of a race so you can tweak your strategy and routine for the next race depending on how you felt.”
Check out these short clips, with my oldest sister Meg Kenyon. A lifelong runner who ran competitively in college and just completed the Austin Half Marathon, Meg talks about her pre-race routine with pasta.
Whether you’re looking to run your first big race and need to carbo-load or you’re just brand new to running, it’s important to know what foods work best for your body in order for you to have a great run. Check out these awesome tips at the link below.
story photo in Newsletter by Spencer Dahl