Race Day Nutrition

Written by Eve Guenther, RD, KSB Dietitian

With race day right around the corner, it certainly is not too early to start thinking about race day nutrition. Whether this is your first race, or you are a seasoned professional, race day can be hectic and for some of us, nutrition is the farthest thing from our minds. To get you ready for race day, here are a few tips and tricks to maximize your potential.  

Before the Race Starts 

Before the start of the race, about 30 min to an hour from start time, consider a pre-race snack. A good option for a snack is around 30 to 60 grams of our body’s primary energy source, also known as carbohydrates. Check the food label for ‘total carbohydrates’ and compare with the serving size on the package. Some ideas include… 

  • Fresh fruit (2 whole pieces or 2 cups) 
  • Dried fruit (1/3 to ½ cup) 
  • White bagel (½ to 1 bagel or 1-2 mini bagels) 
  • White bread (2 slices) 
  • Cereal with milk (1 cup cereal + ¾ cup milk) 
  • Frozen waffles (2 or 1 with fruit/syrup topping) 
  • Pretzels (1-2 oz) 
  • Potato (1 medium) 
  • Sports drink (Gatorade/Powerade, full sugar, 2-3 cups) 

Whichever snack you decide to choose before the race, keep your choice low in fat, fiber, and protein to avoid stomach upset.  

Options like simple sugars (white breads) are going to absorb faster in our bodies and therefore provide energy faster than complex carbohydrates (like wheat bread). 


One of the best things you can do before, during, and physical activity is to hydrate. Are you the type of person who sweats during exercise? Check the weather, is it going to be a warm day?  

When we exercise, we tend to lose sweat in the form of water and electrolytes. Try to take sips of water throughout the day, and with the potential loss of electrolytes, having a sports drink may be appropriate for after the race. If possible, try to avoid the temptation to drink a bottle of water over a short period of time.  

Keep an eye on the color of your urine the day of the race, a darker color may suggest dehydration. Odds are if you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated. 

After the Race 

You finished the race, congratulations!  

In the world of sports nutrition, the period after the workout is often called the ‘recovery period’ and consists of the 3 R’s: refuel, repair, and rehydrate. About 15 to 60 minutes after the race, try to grab a snack. This snack would consist of a beverage and a food consisting of carbohydrates and protein. As previously mentioned, your body uses carbohydrates as a primary source of fuel, so it is important after a work-out to refuel our body. When we exercise, we are essentially tearing muscles and reforming them and protein helps to build/repair our muscles. Rehydrating with the beverages below helps to replenish fluids and electrolytes we lost during our work-out.  

  • Beverage Suggestions 
    • Chocolate milk (1.5 to 2 cups), low fat milk 
    • Coconut water 
    • 100% fruit juice 
    • Decaf teas 
    • Tart cherry juice 
    • Water 
    • Sports drink 
  • Carbohydrate/Protein Suggestions 
    • Pasta and chicken 
    • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich 
    • Nuts and fruit 
    • Avocado toast and fruit 
    • Whole grain crackers and peanut butter/almond butter 

So, in short, remember to stay hydrated and to grab a snack before and after you jump onto the track. Proper nutrition is crucial in sports performance and some of these tips/tricks are sure to help you have the best race possible.