If you’re a newbie to distance running and Broad Street is your first big race, you might be feeling a tad lost on what you should and shouldn’t be doing to fuel up before and during the race. Should you eat mounts of spaghetti? Lay off high-fiber veggies? Down a cup of pre-race coffee? Lots to think about.
I talked to Unite Fitness VP and nutrition director Juliet Burgh about how she fuels up for a race and what she recommends to clients. “I take a balanced approach,” she says. The key? A good mix of protein, healthy fats and carbs, which, together, pack a wallop nutrients that your body can use for energy, muscle repair and more.
Let's look at the three race fuel-up phases—the night before, the morning of, and during the race—in more detail, shall we?
What to Eat the Night Before the Broad Street Run
The biggest mistake distance-running newbies make, Burgh says, is going overboard on the whole carb-loading thing. "You don’t need to carb load for Broad Street like you would for a full marathon," says Burgh, because you don't need nearly as much quick-burn energy during a 10-miler as you would for a distance more than double the length. And besides, marathoners and ultramarathoners would have started ramping up their carb supply a week ahead of race day, so it's probably too late now to make much of a difference, anyway.
Burgh says your extra-carb intake should be limited to just one more carb serving than you would normally eat. So if you would eat a half cup of brown rice or quinoa at dinner, make it a full cup. She says starchy carbs, like sweet potatoes, are good options, too.
As for what else should be on your pre-race dinner plate, make it a lean protein (chicken or fish, not a filet mignon from Ruth's Chris), veggies (think dark leafy greens, like kale, which is also high in carbs—win!) and a healthy fat, such as nuts.
You know what I'm envisioning here? A chicken or fish atop a salad of greens, almonds or avocado, and cooked quinoa, with your light olive oil-based dressing of choice. Done.
What to Eat the Morning of the Broad Street Run
You want to make sure you eat at within two hours of the start time of the race; that puts you at about 6:30 a.m. at the earliest. Burgh says if you can't handle much food when you first wake up, eat something small and light to get your body going, then pack a carb-heavy snack to eat at the starting line or on the train ride on the way up. She likes a banana with a grab-and-go packet of almond butter. "It's easy and portable," she says.
If you can eat right when get up, Burgh suggests steel-cut oatmeal with fruit and nuts, and a hardboiled egg on the side: "The oatmeal will give you your complex carbs"—energy that burns longest—"the fruit will give you instant energy because it’s simple carbs, the nuts are giving you some fat and protein, and egg gives you more protein."
As for coffee, Burgh says its your call: You should know your body, so if you typically drink a cup before a run, you'll be fine, but don't do it for the first time on race day. "The morning of the race is not the time to experiment with new foods," says Burgh,"especially something like coffee that can mess with your digestion if you're not used to it."
What to Eat During the Broad Street Run
Because this is a relatively short race, many runners won't need to replenish their energy supplies mid-race. "People who are going more than 90 minute should have a Gu gel handy, but no more than one," says Burgh. "If someone’s doing an under-90-minute Broad Street, they won’t have time to really think about mid-race fueling, and their bodies probably won't need it, anyway."
If you do need a sudden mid-race jolt, don't overlook the Gatorade stops along the course. A gulp or two of electrolyte-laden Gatorade can keep you from feeling sluggish, but remember, the stuff is pretty sugary, so it could cause you to feel thirstier. Burgh recommends only sipping Gatorade once, and even then, having one or two big gulps before washing it down with some water.
Bonus Tip: How to Hydrate Properly
Speaking of water, there's a bit of a technique when it comes to hydrating properly before a race. Burgh says you want to start guzzling it down at least two days prior to race day to ensure you're well hydrated. "You need to be consistent," she warns. "Don't be lax on your water intake."
That means, starting tomorrow (Friday), you should aim to take in half your body weight in fluid ounces of water over the course of a day. That means if you weigh 150 pounds, you want to drink 75 ounces of water each day on Friday and Saturday. If you need a visual, a half gallon is 64 ounces of water, so a 150-pound person would need slightly more than a half gallon of water. I've seen people who take an empty gallon container and physically draw a line on the container as a guide for how much they should be drinking.
After hydrating well on Friday and Saturday, aim to drink two more big glasses of water when you wake up on Sunday. "You should be able to pee it all out within the hour or two hours," says Burgh. "Then after the two glasses, just take small sips so you don’t overwhelm the bladder."
And, hey, if you do, there are always the Porta Potties along the course.
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