10 Foods To Eat The Day Before Race Day
While the need to carb-load isn’t as great for a 10k as it is for longer distances, it’s still a good idea to prioritise carbohydrates the day before your race – as well as low-fibre vegetables and certain run-boosting vitamins. Carbohydrates increase glycogen, which is a primary energy source for all but the ‘fat-adapted’ runners among us.
That said, there’s no need to go overboard the day before your race; to avoid waking up feeling bloated and heavy, aim for three meals that provide a mixture of carbs, good-quality protein and nutrient-packed veg. The following 10 foods are a good place to start.
A food that has become synonymous with endurance sport, pasta is high-carb, easy to digest and even easier to eat. Don’t fall into the trap many runners make, however, by eating a mountain of the stuff the day before Race Day. A regular-sized portion, eaten well before you go to bed – 6 or 7pm is ideal – will top up your glycogen stores and leave you well-fueled for the morning.
Like pasta, bread is high in energy proving carbohydrate and it’s unlikely to give you too much tummy trouble (gluten-tolerance depending) – but also like pasta, it’s easy to overdo it. Bread can really mean anything from a baguette to a bagel, and wholegrain or white is up to you; in the days leading up to a race, refined carbs aren’t the worst option, because they digest quicker and therefore provide more readily accessible energy.
You want to take a little extra salt on board the day before the 10k. When you run, you sweat, and when too much sodium is lost through that sweat, you’re likely to cramp up. Something simple like a pack of pretzels, or an electrolyte solution, will top up your sodium levels and keep cramp at bay.
4. Sweet potato
Two sweet potatoes contain around 50 grams of carbohydrates, which will provide more than enough fuel for your 10k effort. Sweet potatoes also contain manganese, which helps your body metabolise those carbs; Vitamin C, an antioxidant that can help prevent tissue damage; and immune-boosting Vitamin A to ward off any infections the night before Race Day.
It’s a pre-race staple for many runners, but making porridge your breakfast of choice in the week leading up to Race Day is also a good idea. Not only will it provide you with a tried-and-tested option for the morning of your 10k; it’s high in slow-releasing carbohydrate, low in fat – making it easy to digest – and loaded with recovery-assisting protein.
Oily fish is full of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, which have also been linked to improved lung and joint health (meat-free runners can turn to flaxseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and soy foods for their dose of Omega-3). Salmon is also an excellent source of protein – one fillet contains around 22 grams – which will ensure you’re fully recovered and ready to race when the big day arrives.
Packed full of vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fats, antioxidants and phytonutrients, there are several reasons spinach is considered a ‘superfood’. All that goodness is great for runners, because it helps to repair damaged cells and reduce inflammation. Just as significantly, spinach contains nitrates, which facilitate the flow of oxygen and nutrients to muscles, thus helping to fight fatigue when your 10k gets tough.
An acquired taste, but one worth embracing, because grapefruit is a rich source of antioxidants, which help to protect against running-induced inflammation and cell damage – as well as a number of more serious, chronic conditions. With its high-water content, grapefruit is also a good option for runners who struggle to stay hydrated through drinking alone.
Beetroot, and specifically beetroot juice, has boomed in recent years, with several studies advocating its performance-enhancing properties. As with spinach, nitrates are the magic ingredient at work here: gifting runners with improved heart and breathing endurance.
10. Dark chocolate
For the sweet-toothed runner, dark chocolate is a healthy – albeit sharper – alternative to processed bars and high-sugar snacks. Polyphenols in dark chocolate contribute to the production of nitric oxide, which delivers oxygenated blood to working muscles and delays fatigue, while a host of minerals help to support proper blood circulation, fluid regulation and muscle contraction – all very good news for the 10k runner.