by Mary Creel
Spring is the season for races, and a lot of people are gearing up to do everything from 5Ks and half marathons to trail runs, and triathlons. Whatever the event, start your pre-event preparation the day before with a variety of carbohydrate-rich foods for the best results. Here’s why.
Carbohydrates play the most important role in meal planning before a race. Meals rich in carbohydrates provide readily available fuel for your muscles, allowing them to better meet your energy needs versus eating high-protein or high-fat foods.
Don’t Wait! “Carb Up” First Thing
Don’t wait to “carb up” with the traditional pasta dinner the night before your race. Instead, start with smart choices in the morning the day before you run. When you make the conscious effort to eat well from the time you wake up, it will only help your pre-event confidence and mental preparation.
Take it from personal experience. Last weekend, I was with a group of friends at the beach for a half marathon. We enjoy the camaraderie of eating our meals together, and decided a few years ago that an oatmeal bar is a fun way to bring the group together, rather than having everyone eat their own cereal, bagels, or power bars.
With this many hungry runners, everyone took a part in preparation. It was the perfect way to get in all four food groups before the race with minimal time in front of the stove.
The Oatmeal Bar
Everyone loved the DIY aspect of the oatmeal bar. We got in line, scooped a hearty serving of oatmeal into a bowl, and added our own toppings.
Oats: Steel-cut oats provide a high-fiber, whole-grain, stick-to-your-ribs carbohydrate.
Dairy: We made ours with some milk so that we included the dairy food group, and had a small pitcher available at the table if anyone wanted a creamier consistency.
Fresh Fruit: Colorful and naturally sweet strawberries and blueberries were everyone’s picks for the fresh fruit toppings. Dried fruits such as raisins, dried cranberries, and dates played a supporting role and are great energizers any time.
Proteins and Healthy Fats: We complemented the protein the oatmeal and milk provided with some almonds and walnuts, which also contributed healthy fats and added crunchy appeal.
Savory Extra: While most of us rarely take the time to make breakfast during the week, it was a treat to smell bacon cooking in the kitchen. Bacon added the right savory balance to the meal. Our recipe for Oven Bacon was easy for one person to prepare.
Paleo Oven-Baked Bacon: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; arrange bacon in a single layer on parchment paper. Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until crisp. Drain on paper towels.
Bonus Carbs: Honey and brown sugar provide little nutritional value, but they do lend additional carbohydrate calories that your body will store for energy.
Leftover oatmeal could be reheated the next day, and the toppings were tasty stirred into yogurt for a quick snack post-race.
Do Your Best from Start to Finish
Whether you’re doing a 5k, triathlon, or half marathon, it’s not just about what you eat for dinner the night before. It’s about the whole day. Start with a solid, balanced meal (like our oatmeal bar!), and continue that throughout the day. You’ll be mentally energized by the time your race rolls around, and know that you did your best in all aspects to get your body into top race shape.
Related Article: Why You Should Try Run/Walk Marathon Training
Want Some Help?
If you’re looking for a way to keep your breakfasts–or any meal—in line with your fitness goals, check out the eMeals Paleo and Low Calorie meal plans. There are breakfast, lunch, and dinner plans available, and our handy smartphone app makes shopping a breeze, so there’s more time to train and less worry over what you’re eating.
Mary Creel is a registered dietitian and four-time Ironman finisher. She caught the running bug in the 1970s, and hasn’t stopped since. When she isn’t biking, swimming, or pounding the pavement, she’s developing healthy and gluten-free recipes as part of the eMeals team.