What to eat before the race
by Kamila Piotrowska • May 3rd, 2023

Your general well-being and power level on competition day will largely depend on the energy you provide before the start. It is obvious that you will want to perform at your best. Therefore, plan well what you will eat on the day of the start, the day before and at what times.

Wondering what's best to eat? I invite you to read this text.

As you know, food is fuel for our body. There is a lot of talk about the importance of pre-workout meals, i.e. the ones you eat before and after training and the start of a competition. You can be tempted to say that these meals during the day are the most important, and not so often emphasized breakfast. Although in the case of Spartan races, the pre-race meal is usually breakfast. Of course, proper nutrition should always be taken care of, not just on the day of the competition. Both the supply of good quality nutrients and possible supplementation bring the best results with prolonged and regular use. In this article, however, I will focus on eating on the day of the start, because it will be extremely important what exactly we decide to eat then.

Let's start with the fact that your body will also draw from what you eat the previous day. I know that we often spend the day before the competition traveling. It is then worth organizing your own food in boxes and not risking dining in roadside bars or fast food. Dinner should primarily contain carbohydrates and proteins, with the addition of good fats (olive oil, cold-pressed, unrefined oils, avocado, mozzarella, nuts). Avoid fried, heavily spiced, heavy foods. Pasta, pancakes, salads with the addition of pasta or groats, simple pizza or grilled, lean meat, vegetables and baked potatoes or rice will work. Eat your last meal at least 2-3 hours before bedtime, so that sleep is a time of regeneration for the body, not work on digesting a late dinner.

Breakfast on the day of the competition should be easily digestible and also eaten about 2-3 hours before the start. The body must have enough time to digest food and convert it into energy. Besides, no one likes the feeling of a full stomach while running. If for some reason you can't eat early enough, bet on something small. It can be in liquid form to further speed up the digestive process. Cocktails will work, as well as dried fruit, chocolate bars, bananas, rice cakes with jam. Light and high-energy snacks.

Is drinking coffee with breakfast a good idea? Opinions are divided and again it largely depends on personal preferences. Caffeine is used as a natural stimulant, so many people drink it successfully as part of a pre-workout. However, the stimulating power of coffee will not work immediately, it takes about 30 minutes to feel its effect. So you can think about drinking an espresso about an hour before the start to reserve time for a possible visit to the toilet. If you react badly to coffee and want to naturally wake up in the morning, you can also drink tea or yerba mate or use guarana or caffeine supplementation.

What nutrients should your pre-race meal consist of?

- First of all, easily digestible carbohydrates in a simple form, i.e. white bread, fruit and their preserves, rice, semolina, sweet pastries. During endurance sports, such as running, carbohydrates are the main source of energy for intensively working muscles. Their simple form will enable quick digestion and use as energy. If you keep a longer interval between the meal (about 3 hours) and the start time, you can also replace simple carbohydrates with complex ones, e.g. wholegrain bread or pasta, groats, brown rice.

- Secondly, we pay attention to the protein and fat content of the meal. Although fat will be another source of energy right after carbohydrates, a large amount of it is not recommended due to the prolonged digestive process. The situation is similar with protein. It is the main building block of muscles and is an important part of every meal, but it takes longer to digest than carbohydrates. We do not want these ingredients to burden the stomach unnecessarily before the start. Therefore, they should be included in the meal, but in a limited amount. Focus on getting more protein in what you eat when you reach the finish line. This will allow you to replenish its losses after exercise and will have a positive effect on the regeneration process.

- You should also be careful with fiber, which generally improves digestion, but during exercise it can irritate the intestines and cause unpleasant ailments. The last thing we need during the run is an urgent need to visit the toilet 😉 the source of fiber will be oatmeal, wholegrain bread, bran, fresh fruit with peel. Therefore, I advise against eating oatmeal and apples before the start, although there are people who have absolutely no problems with it. If you have tested it and know that your intestines do not react violently, then go ahead. However, remember not to experiment and check it on the day of the launch.

So what kind of meals before the start can I offer you?

- Plain wheat bread with jam. – a classic of the genre and probably the most often eaten breakfast before the start. You can add a small amount of butter or peanut butter to sandwiches as a source of fat. Fat in each meal increases the feeling of satiety, is a carrier of taste, and also allows the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, K.

- Rice cakes with jam or peanut butter and banana.

- Cocktail based on water or plant milk - a good option for people who can't eat breakfast and need to eat something. I do not recommend cow's milk, because it can cause problems with the digestive system in many people, it can also take too long to digest due to the protein content. You can add bananas, dates, a small amount of berries, a teaspoon of peanut butter or a protein supplement to the cocktail (as long as we know that it does not cause intestinal problems).

- Pancakes/waffles/sweet rolls with jam, honey or chocolate cream and bananas.

- White rice/semolina/small bulgur with the addition of dried fruit, a bit of nuts, a teaspoon of yogurt (yoghurt can also be vegan, once again watch out for dairy products),

- Pasta with a light tomato sauce and a bit of olive oil - a simple solution for people who do not like sweet meals. Tomatoes are also a good source of potassium.

- Hummus sandwiches / tortilla with hummus and fresh or grilled vegetables.

– another proposal for salty, easy to organize on a trip. However, hummus also contains a lot of protein, so be careful.

Some of you will say that he eats scrambled eggs with bacon before the start and also feels great. And of course there are such people. If you know that such a meal serves you best, does not burden your stomach, does not cause gastric revolutions on the route and gives you energy, then there is nothing wrong with it. However, remember not to experiment on the day of the competition. Always use proven, tested and the most simple solutions.

During the competition you will need a large dose of energy, which is why it is so important to nourish the body well. Of course, if you are competing for a longer distance (Beast, Ultra or Super) a meal eaten before the start will not provide enough fuel for the entire route and you will need to eat during the run. However, this topic will be developed in the next text.

Food and Nutrion

Spartan Ambassador from Poland - Kamila PIOTROWSKA

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