I don’t know about you all, but I LOVE Black Friday deals, and I LOVE shopping, and yet – I am totally burned out on it already. I’ve got all my Christmas presents purchased, and now I just want the temptation of shopping and the holiday deals to get out of my face. Unless it’s a Dyson hairdryer. But it would take a pretty unbelievable deal to get that $400 price tag down to an amount that I want to spend. Anyway – because I’m a little burnt out on all the shopping deals – I thought you might be too, so I decided we should talk about FOOD! Because food is never not fun to talk about.
I started doing a little research on pre-race nutrition for a couple of reasons.
- My dad is getting ready for his first half marathon, and when I suggested some pre-race breakfasts that he could start experimenting with on his long run days, all I could come up with was oatmeal, bagel, or english muffin.
- I feel like I eat differently in the days leading up to a marathon in order to carb load. Normally I would not eat a bagel, but then 3 days before a race, that’s what I start eating for breakfast. And that has actually worked very well for me, but it made me curious to learn what other people do.
Here is what I do currently for a Sunday race (full marathon):
- Thursday: Bagel with light cream cheese for breakfast, sandwich or Chipotle for lunch, Peanut Butter Clif Bar for an afternoon snack, usually chicken or steak and baked potato for dinner.
- Friday: Bagel with light cream cheese, Chipotle for lunch, Peanut Butter Clif Bar for an afternoon snack, pizza or chicken & rice for dinner.
- Saturday: Bagel with light cream cheese, big sandwich with turkey & cheese and baked potato chips or sweet potato fries for lunch, Peanut Butter Clif Bar snack, spaghetti with meatballs and marinara for dinner. And I usually have a small glass of wine with dinner! I know this is unusual – but it IS what I do every Friday night before my long run on Saturday. Plus it helps me sleep. I really watch my hydration, so I’ve not had an issue with that (knock on wood).
- Sunday morning pre race – Oatmeal with 1/2 scoop protein powder, blueberries, banana & peanut butter, or an english muffin with banana & peanut butter + COFFEE with usual Vital Proteins & 2% milk!
I have the same breakfast for a half marathon, but don’t carb load the previous days leading up.
To caveat this post – carb loading isn’t a one meal thing. It needs to be done over a few days prior to the race. And dinner right before your race really doesn’t need to be a huge bomb of a meal – which is why it is a process over a couple of days. Additionally, I’m not talking about hydration in this post. You should be hydrating WELL for at least 2 days beforehand, if not more.
So now that we’ve gotten that out of the day, let’s get down to the FOOD DUDE! I took a poll on Instagram & Facebook to see what you all like to eat, and everyone was very interested to see all the answers I got. So I grouped everything together for you here!
Lunch the day before. I have always been told this should actually be a bigger meal than dinner the night before.
- Grilled chicken sandwich with bacon, tomato & sweet potato fries
- Pasta with Italian dressing, veggies, mini pepperoni & cheese
- Mini pizza made with a bagel & pasta or pizza sauce and cheese
- Baked sweet potato with almond butter
- Black Thai rice salad with red pepper, tomatoes, grilled chicken
- Peanut butter & jelly
- NYC pretzel (I LOVE this idea and I remember reading the blog of an elite runner who eats this as her pre-race breakfast! I can’t remember who though, comment below if you know. I’ve always thought it was smart – salt + carbs!)
- Shepard’s Pie
- Grilled chicken, roasted red & sweet potatoes with a salad
- Baked sweet potatoes & light salad
- Lots fo sweet potatoes & grass fed beef or bison
- Flat bread pizza with a little cheese & lots of mushrooms
- Chicken with rice & zucchini (hard to find at a restaurant), so if not that, then spaghetti with marinara & broccoli
- Margarita wood fired pizza
- Veggies, brussels, grilled chicken, sweet potatoes
- Half Subway sandwich
- Salmon & brown rice
- Blackened tilapia with brown rice, spinach, black beans, corn & red pepper
- Vegan Pad See Ew
- Plain grilled chicken or steak & plain mashed potatoes or baked potato
- Chicken Francese with pasta
- Lots of pasta variations:
- Salad & pasta
- Pasta with grilled chicken
- Penne pasta with marinara and chicken parmigiana
- Plain pasta with marinara and bread
- Pasta with chicken and a little broccoli or spinach
- Pasta and pop tarts (Genius!)
- Chickpea & lentil pasta
Half Marathon Breakfast: I asked for both half marathon & full marathon breakfasts, because I was really curious to see what (if any, differences there were)
- Blueberry or cinnamon bagel with half a banana & PB with coffee
- Egg sandwich
- Half bagel
- Banana & cup of coffee
- Peanut butter crackers
- Hard boiled egg & piece of toast with PB
- Half a PB sandwich
- Nature valley granola bar
- Croissants with fruit
- Clif bar
- Gluten free toast with PB
- Bagel with PB, banana, gel/juice
- Simply Elizabeth oatmeal with raisins and PB
- 1/2 banana & Go Macro Bar
- English muffin with PB fit & half a banana, picky bar
- Instant oatmeal with almond butter, chia & flax seeds
- Toast with peanut butter & chocolate chips
- Apple or banana with a waffle (one of the Stroopwafel style ones) & gel right at the start
Full Marathon Breakfast
- Instant oatmeal cups with banana & PB (LoveGrown & Purely Elizabeth were both brands mentioned)
- Bagel with banana and PB
- Egg sandwich
- Full bagel
- PB & banana on a bagel with coffee and coconut water
- Hard boiled egg & 2 pieces of toast with PB
- Whole peanut butter sandwich
- 1/2 PB sandwich with a Nature Valley Granola bar
- Clif bar with PB on top, banana, hot shot, health warrior PB & chocolate bar
- Overnight oats with PB & a caramel waffle
- Pancakes (reheated) with syrup and PB
- Bagel with PB, banana, gel/juice, oat shake and a bar of some kind
- Simply Elizabeth oatmeal with raisins and PB + banana
- Oats with 1 tbsp nut butter
- Oats with nut butter & honey, banana, chews
- 2 Eggo waffles with PB & syrup
- Plain oatmeal with banana, or if long commute, apple or banana with honey stinger waffle + plain bagel
- Half bagel or waffle with peanut butter & banana & one gu right before (same for half or full)
- 1 piece of toast, banana & almond butter
I love all of these ideas and hope you liked reading them as much as I did!
A couple of other things I read that gave me great ideas and loved:
This article about what Boston’s Elite runners eat during marathon week. I liked that it showed diversity among what the elite runners choose & how specific it was.
This blog post from NYCRunningMama. She goes in depth with her nutrition approach and I re-read it all the time. I find it so balanced, smart, and just plain helpful. To me, it is a completely sustainable way of eating. I also love this blog post where she gives her day to day eats leading up to a race.
At the end of the day, what I learned is that pre-race nutrition isn’t really as much of a science as you can make it out to be if you go down that rabbit hole. And that it is unique to the person. While there are people who swear by whole, unprocessed foods, there are equally successful people who swear by foods that are processed and packaged.
As for me, I don’t know if I am going to change my routine, or even my pre-race pasta. But I promise to keep you updated on what I find that works for me!