Recently I’ve gotten a lot of questions about race nutrition and one of the most common has to do with that to eat before a race. With many runners first race experience being a 5k, I thought it would a good idea to put together some tips on what to eat before a 5k.
When it comes to pre-race nutrition there is really only one rule you must follow:
Don’t try anything new the night before, the morning of, or during the race.
Beyond that there are really only a few tips and personal experience to go on. Everyone is different. Taking that into account, here are a few pre-race nutrition tips and some of my favorite pre- race foods.
- Don’t experiment with new foods on race day; stick to familiar options.
- Eat a balanced meal 1 1/2 – 2 hours before the race to allow for digestion.
- Snacking at the starting line is okay; consider pre-race nutrition like GU or a banana.
- You typically don’t need to eat during a 5k race.
- After the race, enjoy whatever food you like.
- Pre-race meal ideas: Peanut Butter & Honey/Jelly, Kodiak Cakes, Egg Sandwich & Banana, or a trusted Protein Shake with Fruit or a Fruit Smoothie.
Pre-Race Nutrition Tips
- Test what to eat before your 5k by eating before your training runs. This is the best way to find out what works and possibly more important, what doesn’t for you before you run.
- Eat 1 1/2 -2 hours before the race. Give yourself time to digest, you don’t want to be full at the starting line.
- It’s ok to eat at the starting line or just before. You’ll see a lot of racers powering down a pre-race GU or banana.
- You don’t need to eat during the race. Unless you are taking more than an hour, your pre-race nutrition should cover you for the event.
- After the race, eat what ever you want!
What to Eat Before a 5k
Here are some of my go-to’s for meals before a race. I’ve tested these over years of early morning ultras and know these will not leave me waiting for a porta-potty before the race.
1. Peanut Butter &Honey/Jelly ( Homemade or Uncrsutables)
You can’t go wrong with the classics. Packing a mix of protein carbs and sugar this is the perfect mix to start you off before a race. One of the main reasons it tops my list is the ability to find the ingredients to make one anywhere in the world. This may not sound important but if you ever start traveling for races, believe me it helps that you can get it anywhere. If you don’t want to make your own you can always get Smuckers Uncrustables, a legendary snack in the trail running and enduro OCR community.
2. Kodiak Cakes – Dark Chocolate Chip Pancake Mix
Protein packed dark chocolate chip pancakes… what more do I have to say! If you haven’t tried Kodiak Cakes, or tried any other flavor besides the dark chocolate then you need to give try this flavor. Just add water and and cook and they are even good cold the next morning. For an extra treat you can even add the mix to your protein shake for an awesome chocolate thickening boost.
Note: They have also started making prepacked waffles that are pretty good too. In my opinion they’re not as good as the pancake mix but they are a lot easier to make.
3. Egg Sandwich & Banana
When I have the time this is one of my favorite breakfasts. I’ll scramble up 2 eggs, toast some bread, and throw a banana on the side. There’s nothing like protein, carbs, and natural sugar to keep you going during your 5k!
4. Protein Shake w/ Fruit or a Fruit Smoothie
Most of have a favorite protein shake. Something we make, uniquely throwing in some of our favorite ingredients from around the kitchen. Mine features a mix of protein, banana, spinach, oats, and a few secret ingredients. It’s something I know and trust. It’s packed with everything I need to get through a long workout and will sit well in my stomach. When in doubt, turn to your trusted protein shake!
While pre-race nutrition can vary from person to person, the fundamental principle remains consistent: avoid experimenting with unfamiliar foods on race day. Instead, focus on a tried-and-tested pre-race routine. Eat a balanced meal a couple of hours before the race, giving your body time to digest without feeling overly full at the starting line. Don’t hesitate to snack lightly just before the race if needed, and remember that you typically won’t require additional nutrition during a 5k.
As you prepare for your upcoming 5k, consider the meal options mentioned earlier, such as Peanut Butter & Honey/Jelly, Kodiak Cakes, Egg Sandwich & Banana, or a reliable Protein Shake with Fruit or a Fruit Smoothie. These choices offer a combination of protein, carbs, and natural sugars to fuel your race.
Ultimately, your pre-race nutrition strategy should be a reflection of your personal preferences and what your body responds to best. By testing various options during training runs and sticking to what works for you, you can optimize your performance on race day. And remember, after crossing the finish line, treat yourself to whatever post-race indulgence you desire – you’ve earned it! Happy racing, and may your 5k be fueled for success.