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What to Eat before and after Running a Race

what to eat before and after a marathonHurting the day after a race or long run? Training experts share their favorite meals in The Chi Marathon: The Breakthrough Natural Running Program for a Pain-Free Half Marathon and Marathon by Danny Dreyer and Katherine Dreyer.

Carb loading is the key to getting ready for a marathon; however, it is even more important to eat what you practiced during your training. Many of the best ChiRunners break the rules, including myself. It’s considered a real no-no to eat protein, fats, or dairy before your event, but my favorite pre-race dinner is a big bowl of brown rice and pinto beans with cheese, so I break all the rules (but it works for me). I might even indulge in some ice cream!

We asked some Certified Instructors about their favorite pre- and post-race meals:

Alan Miller: Pasta and veggies for pre-race and pizza and beer afterward.

Ryan Miller: I normally do not eat anything solid before a long run. I normally just drink a large glass of fresh juice, celery or apple. If I wake up hungry, I eat a banana. On the run I bring raisins and nuts soaked in honey. Sometimes I’ll throw in a few raw cacao nibs as well. The night before a long race I will fuel up with a huge salad and protein shake.

Bryan Huberty: The week before, I focus on eating as much fruit as possible, especially calorie-rich fruits such as bananas and dates blended in a water-based smoothie with celery for natural sodium and blueberries for color, flavor, and vitamins. You can use coconut water instead of water also. I eat watermelon every morning for a week leading up to the marathon to stay hydrated, and the lycopene in the red flesh helps your cardiovascular system. At night, I focus on big salads with spinach, lettuce, and other greens; fruit; and brown rice with veggies. During the race I use coconut water blended with bananas, and sometimes I just use fresh-squeezed orange juice. For the post-event meal, first I eat a lot of fruit to get my carbs replenished, then an hour later I have a fish or chicken meal for protein—along with a beer!

Aracely Areas: Oatmeal, walnuts, almonds, and berries for breakfast the day before.

Dave Saltmarsh: Pre-race dinner is pasta and lots of it. After every long race I have Campbell’s chicken noodle soup in a thermos, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a banana, and applesauce. I eat it as soon as possible after finishing. After that I’m ready to enjoy anything I can get my hands on, and usually this includes a good donut.

Doug Dapo: One of my favorite post event meals is what I call my “St. Patrick’s Day” smoothie. When I get home after running a marathon, I am not ready for a big meal right away but I feel that my body needs some refueling. So I have a cool, refreshing, and very nutritious smoothie. I use almond milk with a whole orange, frozen pineapple, frozen mango, frozen organic spinach, flaxseed, nutritional yeast, and protein powder. I put this in my Vitamix blender and the smoothie turns a lovely shade of green from the spinach (hence the name St. Patrick’s Day smoothie). This really hits the spot. Later in the day, I get together with my running group and we go to our favorite Mexican restaurant to celebrate.

Joel Matalon: On the day of the race, I have a bowl of oatmeal two hours before race start, and I make sure I go to the bathroom to move my bowels. I eat fruit as much as possible during the race, at least every hour. After the race I have a fruit drink. Then one hour after race completion I have a full meal: steak, veggies, sweet potato, and a full glass of red wine.

Laura Houston: Post-race, I try to drink chocolate soy milk within thirty minutes of finishing. Coconut water is good too—it helps flush out the kidneys. After that, don’t stand between me and food!

Vince Vaccaro: During the race I use sodium-potassium pills (S! Caps) and chia seeds mixed with water and maple syrup. I drink only water. I’ve had some great races on a pre-race dinner of sushi.


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