Top Good And Convenient Pre-Race Meals

Coaches are often asked what they should consume before a race or workout, but the answer to that question involves more than just food.

It is not only important to choose the right kinds of food, but also to pay attention to how much you consume and when you consume it. All of these parameters are important. If you plan your pre-race meal correctly, you will be able to start off with plenty of energy and not experience any stomach issues. So, here’s how to get it right.

What to Eat: Lead with Carbohydrates

It’s essential to recall that carbohydrates are the source of power for strenuous efforts, so if you are taking part in a race or prepping for an interval workout, it’s best, to begin with a considerable amount of carbohydrates.

You have an abundance of fat to give you the energy you need to exercise, while protein helps with the recovery and improvement processes, but it doesn’t give you much energy while exercising. Your carbohydrate tank is pretty limited, though.

The amount of carbohydrate that your muscles and liver can retain is roughly 400-500 grams, which would be enough for 1-3 hours of physical activity, depending on how vigorous it is.

The goal of your pre-workout/race meal is to replenish your stores and make sure your blood sugar is at an adequate level, especially upon waking.

How much to eat before racing or working out

The quantity of food you take in will depend on the interval between your meal before your race or workout and when your actual effort begins. The earlier you eat, the bigger the meal.

The 2016 “Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance” advises that athletes consume between 1-4 grams of carbohydrate for every kilogram of their body weight before engaging in physical activity. It is recommended that 4 g/kg is consumed four hours before exercising, followed by reducing the amount to no more than 1 g/kg close to the start of the activity.

For a 70-kilogram (154-lb) athlete, it is recommended that they consume 280 grams of carbohydrates four hours before participating in a race. That’s an enormous amount of food, with CHO (carbohydrates) providing 1120 calories by itself, therefore the advice should simply be seen as a starting point.

Athletes usually like to eat the last significant meal they will have 2-3 hours before participating in the event since it reduces how many calories and how much food they need to take in.

Attempting to discover the perfect amount of time to eat a meal that is enough to satisfy hunger but not too long to cause indigestion is like a search for the “Goldilocks” solution. Eating an excessive amount of food too near bedtime may cause digestive upset due to beginning the night with a full stomach.

Conversely, if you consume inadequate amounts of food at breakfast, you’ll be famished come the commencement of the day. Choose to eat less rather than more and bring a beverage with carbohydrates in it in case you need a bit more energy in the last 45 minutes before you begin.

Pre-Exercise Meal Composition

The composition of your meal before a race or workout should reflect a good variety of macronutrients when you have enough time for it to be digested.

If you are having your last meal at least four hours before the start of an event, make sure it contains a balanced mix of fat, protein, and carbohydrates (including both complex and simple carbohydrates plus fibre).

Fat, protein, and dietary fibre impede the rate of stomach emptying and the digestion process, consequently making it easier to retain a normalized feeling of satiety for a more extended period. They reduce the abrupt rise in blood sugar by slowing the movement of carbohydrates into the circulatory system.

As the date of your event draws nearer, it becomes more important to speed up digestion; therefore, it is a good idea to eliminate anything that might be slowing it down. Start by lowering the fat content while still making sure to get enough protein to control your appetite and provide your body with a steady supply of it.

Decrease the amounts of both fat and protein while making sure to include a combination of both simple and complex carbs. Ultimately, just before commencing, it’s advisable to avoid food items high in fibre, consuming mainly basic carbohydrates which are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream.

Good Pre-Race Meals Samples

3-4 Hours Before

  • Breakfast Burrito: tortilla, potatoes, eggs, black beans (add rice to go big)
  • Scramble Potatoes, eggs, fresh vegetables, plus toast or bagel.

2-3 Hours Before

  • Eggs and Rice: Similar to the examples above, but simple and easy to digest.
  • Whole grain waffles with nut butter, and a side of fruit.
  • Yoghurt mixed with granola or cereal, berries, and nuts. Add banana or toast with peanut butter to bump up the calories if necessary.

1-2 Hours Before

  • Bagel with peanut butter or similar nut butter and a banana.
  • Oatmeal with nuts and berries. Add brown sugar if you tolerate simple sugars well before hard efforts. Have 1-2 hard-boiled eggs on the side if you need some protein and fat to slow the rush of blood sugar. Here’s a good selection of ways some athletes adjust the nutrition and taste of oatmeal.
  • Sports drink or smoothie and a sports bar or granola bar. If you perform better with less solid food before exercise, look for liquid carbohydrate sources and a few bites of something solid. 

Top Convenient Pre-Race Meals

If you have ever made a journey to a remote location for a competition, you understand the difficulty of finding good food in rural areas. As I drove along through the shimmering neon lights, it occurred to me that I wanted to find a Subway.

The most straightforward method of averting this dilemma, of course, is to bring your own meal. According to Tavis Piattoly, who was a sports dietician with the New Orleans Saints for a couple of years, this is his recommendation to those he assists.

At times it is impractical to pack and ready your own food, causing a trip to the drive-thru to become mandatory.

To assist you in choosing wisely when faced with the abundance of unhealthy, sugary fast food choices, we have put together a list of nutritious meal ideas for before and after races, as well as for those who wish to make healthier choices while travelling by car.

We should point out that the items listed below presume an ordinary, high-carbohydrate-rich diet for both pre-race fuel and post-race replenishment. On the other hand, if you’re taking a high-fat approach, you could always ask for butter.

Heather Caplan, a Washington D.C.-based registered dietitian and runner, advises against eating fried foods. Fat has the potential to slow down digestion, resulting in fatigue and exhaustion. Additionally, some of the oils employed to fry fast-food items (such as lard or soybean oil) can be difficult to digest, leading to issues in the gut. That unexpected influx of substandard oil could have you running to the closest port-a-potty before you even get to the starting line.

According to Piattoly, it is best to mainly have a carbohydrate-based diet but also includes a limited amount of protein. He warns his athletes not to base their diets solely on carbohydrates as this will lead to a sharp rise in their blood sugar level, which eventually results in a drop in energy.

A minimal quantity of protein and fat can prevent the sudden increase. Caplan suggests that when examining a menu that includes calorie counts, it should be noted if the item contains no more than 20% of its total calories from fat.

Here are your best choices, for the restaurant.

1. McDonald’s

Egg McMuffin

Calories: 290; Protein: 17g; Saturated fat: 6g; Sodium: 710mg

According to Piattoly, one should only use bread and egg for optimal results and refrain from using meat or cheese. The egg will provide your body with an adequate amount of both protein and fat, allowing you to stay full for longer. The muffin has carbohydrates without the unhealthy effects of saturated fat, which are present in a biscuit.

Fruit and Maple Oatmeal

Calories: 310; Protein: 6g; Saturated fat: 1.5g; Sodium: 140mg

It contains a small amount of fat (only 4g) and provides a lot of carbs. Don’t choose brown sugar, as this would lower the sugar content from 33 grams to 18.

Be careful when taking in oatmeal pre-race as the high levels of fibre can lead to an urgent need to go the bathroom, in medical circles this is known as “faecal urgency”.


This food item contains 330 calories, 9 grams of protein, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, and 530 milligrams of sodium.

This dish provides 56 grams of carbs and is the recommended choice for both Caplan and Piattoly. In the majority of other circumstances, both would reprove the use of just plain white flour. But you should avoid whole grains on race day, as it could lead to an urgent need to use the restroom.

2. Wendy’s

Artisan Egg Sandwich

This item contains 360 calories, 20 grams of protein, 8 grams of saturated fat, and 760 milligrams of sodium.

Get this sandwich without the cheese and bacon to stay away from eating too much fat before strenuous activity. This food has 29 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of fibre, plus 20 grams of protein which will ensure that you have a satisfying meal for the next few hours.

Steel Cut Oatmeal

Calories: 330; Protein: 5g; Saturated fat: 1g; Sodium: 250mg

Wendy’s provides a bargain-priced dish of oatmeal that is garnished with pecans and cranberries. Steer clear of the limited edition caramel-apple version, which has an exorbitant 33 grams of sugar. All the other alternatives are satisfactory if you request the brown sugar to be served separately.

Original Oatmeal with Dried Fruit

Calories: 270; Protein: 7g; Saturated fat: 1g; Sodium: 140mg?

Do not select the oatmeal flavoured with brown sugar, instead request the plain version. The topping of dried fruit contains ample sugar to supply your body with the necessary glycogen.

Dunkin’ Donuts has a DDSmart menu where their oatmeal is listed, which emphasizes healthiness and provides energy. However, the oatmeal – which *is* a better choice for diners – still highlights how it can be tricky to select appropriate food from fast food restaurants.

When Caplan reviewed the available foods from DDSmart, she observed that the majority of options contain close to half of the recommended amount of saturated fat for a single day.

Moreover, plenty was too abundant in fat to serve as an ideal fuel before a race. What one should not do when considering a meal from a fast food place is be taken in by the advertisements and instead look at what the food is composed of.

Eggs and an English Muffin

Calories: 300; Protein: 13g; Saturated fat: 5g; Sodium: 440mg

Follow Levitt’s example and try to get an ordinary egg sandwich. Be conscious, however: It is unlikely that you will find an option on the register for omelettes alone, so your cashier might have to think on their feet.

Jonathan Levitt, the sales manager at InsideTracker and an avid fan of November Project, revealed that he was charged for a few doughnut pieces. Incorporate the 32 grams of carbohydrates from the English muffin into your meal and you are all set for a strenuous workout.

4. Starbucks

Spinach, Feta, and Cage-Free Egg White Wrap

Calories: 290; Protein: 19g; Saturated fat: 3.5g; Sodium: 830mg

This may be the healthiest option on this list. This wrap is showing off with its low fat of 10 grams and minimal saturated fat of 3.5 grams. On top of that, it has a decent amount of both protein and carbohydrates.

However, it contains only 290 calories, so if you are used to eating a lot before competing, you may need to get those calories from other sources.

Hearty Blueberry Oatmeal

This food item contains 220 calories, 5 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, and 125 milligrams of sodium.

This option is primarily fuelled by carbohydrates, which Dr Caplan endorses. This blend contains fruit, nuts, and seeds, providing a source of fat and sugar for quick energy.

The food at Starbucks is very nice, but anything that has loads of dairy in it, like a venti-extra-whip-mocha, is something different. Piattoly advises that it is wise to keep away from those things before a race, as having a lot of dairy, fat, and caffeine could lead to gastrointestinal issues.

Foods to Avoid

  • Greasy, fatty, fried foods: A bacon cheeseburger is a lot of calories, but it’s more likely to put you to sleep than help you feel energized.
  • This one is a little counterintuitive because it’s hard to ever discourage people from eating vegetables. The problem with high-volume, low-caloric density foods like lettuce is that before a race or hard workout you want concentrated energy sources so you don’t have to eat as much volume. However, you can construct a salad to be more energy dense by adding seeds, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, etc. It’s the giant bowl of lettuce that may be more problematic because it makes you feel full when you have not actually consumed much energy.
  • Sugar-free or diet foods. This should seem obvious because the point of pre-race and pre-workout meals is to provide energy. However, we find many athletes make choices from habit and convenience. The other problem is that many sugar-free foods use sugar alcohols (i.e. Xylitol, Sorbitol) as sweeteners. These can contribute to gastric distress, particularly when you add in the physical and psychological stress of competition.


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