Why You Should Eat a Pre Race Meal

Eating a few hours before a race can boost your running performance.

I did a small experiment to determine whether it is necessary to eat before running a race that starts at 7.00 am in the morning.

The experiment was deliberately done between 7.00 am and 10.00 am because that is the time most marathon take place.

On one day I did not eat breakfast in the morning, I wanted to see how my body would react during the early morning hours. I got in the office at 8.00 am and by 8.45 am I started to have a craving for a snack. At 9.30 am I was starting to lose concentration  my head felt a mild pain, a sign of lack of sugar. At 10.00 am I was too hungry and dizzy to continue working and I went to eat my belated breakfast.

From my experiment I concluded, after a long night (8-10 hours of fasting), your energy levels are heavily depleted and it is Important to eat something before engaging in an energy demanding activity like running a marathon.

Eating a meal rich in simple carbohydrates a few hours before your run can greatly boost your running performance.

One thought on “Why You Should Eat a Pre Race Meal

  1. steve

    I tried an interesting “experiment” on my last race – a 20-miler that started at 7:15am. My breakfast was consumed by 4:15am and I consumed no calories before the race based on the following rationale from the folks at Hammer Nutrition. Just to let you know, I set a new PR! 2:07:36

    Advice to everyone – don’t try this for the first time in a marathon! Fully test various fueling strategies in training.

    Here’s the article:

    “I would encourage you to NOT consume any calories in the 3-hour period
    prior to the start of the marathon. Here’s why:

    Dr. Bill writes, “The rationale for calorie intake 3-hours prior to an
    event is that to the degree blood glucose is raised, insulin will
    increase proportionately. Insulin increase prior to exercise increases
    the relative release of muscle glycogen.” Since muscle glycogen is the
    first fuel the body will use when exercise commences (which is why
    partly why it’s such a vital component of exercise performance) and
    because we have limited supplies of this premium fuel available, we
    don’t want to do anything that will negatively influence the rate at
    which it’s utilized. Yet when you consume calories sooner than 3 hours
    prior to exercise that’s exactly what will happen; you’ll increase the
    rate at which your glycogen is burned.

    Now, in shorter duration events, those lasting under 90 minutes (such as
    your half marathon), the 3-hour “rule” isn’t that big a factor. The
    reason being is that if you’re reasonably fit and if you’ve been
    consistently replenishing your body with calories ASAP after exercise
    you will have accrued upwards of 90 minutes of muscle glycogen.
    Therefore, if you eat something 1-2 hours prior to the start of the
    race, causing the insulin “flood gates” to open, yes, you will most
    likely deplete your glycogen stores at max rates. However, since the
    race will be over in 90 minutes or less this accelerated glycogen
    depletion isn’t a problem.

    However, if your race is over the 90-minute mark (such as your
    marathon), you don’t want to burn those muscle glycogen stores too
    rapidly; you want your body to utilize them to their fullest duration
    possible. That’s when not consuming any calories 3 hours prior will
    really benefit you.

    You have a variety of food/fuel options available, should you choose to
    eat a pre-race meal before your marathon… just make sure you complete
    all food consumption 3 hours prior to the start. Personally, I have no
    problem with porridge as long as it’s not too high in fiber. I don’t
    have a problem with bagels either, though I’d probably nix the jam
    (which is most likely all sugar). Bananas and other fruit are fine. Or,
    you could consume a bottle of Perpetuem… I think it makes a perfect
    pre-race meal.

    I would suggest that you NOT sip on HEED in the time period leading up
    to the start; just drink water. You don’t want/need the calories from
    HEED or any other fuel/food source for the accelerated glycogen
    depletion reasons mentioned earlier… water + Endurolytes will
    definitely serve you better. During the race I’d suggest fueling with
    Hammer Gel + water + Endurolytes. If you want to carry a bottle with
    you, using HEED instead of Hammer Gel would be perfectly acceptable.

    I hope this helps answer your questions but if you need more
    information/clarification please let me know.

    Sincerely –


    Steve Born
    Senior Technical Advisor
    Event Sponsorship Coordinator


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