In Psychology, there is something called state-dependent learning. It is the theory that whatever you do while you are learning something if being tested, you should follow the same routine and do the same things. The same is true for the day of the big race. Whatever it is that you eat before your long run training days, is what you should eat the day of the big race. The best things to eat to fill yourself up and give yourself the maximum energy for the marathon, are those things that are the biggest bang of energy for your buck. But, preface that with it should be things that you have eaten during training.
It is best to stick to smaller meals that digest quickly. A safe choice is half of a bagel with peanut butter, or something light like oatmeal. Although you don’t want to eat too much, don’t skip eating out of nerves or thinking that it will slow you down. A sports bar, designed to give your body the energy you need without making you feel sluggish, is also a good alternative. There are some really awesome protein bars that are scientifically created to give you all the nutrition you need to give you a leg up. Don’t fill yourself up on liquids either. Whatever you normally have in the morning, like a cup of coffee or a sports drink will do. The trick is to stick to carbohydrates and protein; those are the things that will give you the most available energy to burn through and help the endurance of your muscles.
Don’t grab something on your way out the door, it is important that you give yourself enough time before the race for everything to settle. Allow yourself a minimum of two to three hours in between your breakfast and race start. That sometimes can be hard because of travel or the fact that races normally start at the crack of dawn, but likely there will be lots of wait around time if you plan well. It is important to continue to sip water until race time to get your system working and to take care of any digestive issues that you start your day with. When nature calls you don’t want to be out on the trail, bathrooms are not very accessible once the race has begun.
Allow yourself a minimum of two to three hours in between your breakfast and race start.
Leading up to the big day
Race day is going to be fraught with so much anticipation and nerves that it is probably more important that you focus on nutritional needs on the days leading up to the big event. Several days before the race you want to make sure to beef up on your lean protein. Eating lean proteins like chicken turkey or fish are a good choice to help build lean muscle and to repair and rejuvenate your muscles for the training before and the recovery period you will have after.
Keep indigestion problems away
Carbohydrates are also going to be your friend. Mix your protein intake with carbs like rice, pasta, bread, vegetables and legumes. More importantly, you will want to stay away from fried or processed foods. The last thing you want to deal with the day of the big race is indigestion problems. You want to make sure to think and eat healthy for the week leading up to the race. You have come so far and done so much, think healthy and you will be healthy when the gun goes off.
The vision of spaghetti stuffing the night before a big race is an old wives tale. If you are going to load up on carbs, you are going to want to do it a couple of days in advance, not the night before. Stuffing yourself will likely make you uncomfortable and can lead to a disruption in your sleep patterns. Being nervous is likely going to decrease already your sleep, eating too much will increase any pre-jitter race feelings that will wreak havoc on your GI system.
Hydration is a key
During the race, you are going to want to make sure to stay hydrated. Water is the best choice while running. Save the sports drinks for once the race is over and you need to rehydrate and up your electrolyte balance. Sports drinks may upset your stomach in the long run which will only make the marathon more difficult to complete. Stick with water and don’t be afraid to grab some cups along the way that by passers are handing out. If you can, purchase some refreshment holder that you can run with. There are some really great run products that allow you to take water with you.
The most important thing you can do the day of the race is to breathe deeply. The truth is that you have trained for months for the big day. If you play it smart and just follow the routine, you are going to do great. Likely, whatever you do, or you don’t eat, is not going to be an issue once you strap those shoes on and begin on our journey.