Tara Gidus

5 Common Race Day Nutrition Mistakes

So you signed up for a half or full marathon. You’ve mapped out your mileage and you begin logging your training runs. Whether you are running with a group, your best friend or training solo, don’t forget to consider your race day nutrition before you actually get to race day. You’re training your body in all aspects for the race--don’t forget about what you will eat and drink prior to and during the race so you know how your body will respond. 

Everyone has unique nutritional needs! I’ve compiled the top 5 race day nutrition mistakes to help you prepare for your upcoming race.

  1. Skipping pre-race meal or not fueling enough. Pre-race jitters or fear of having to make a pit stop during the race may shy runners away from eating before they run. Don’t make this common mistake, as your body needs fuel before your long run. Try to eat something even if you have to nibble on dry cereal, granola bar, or banana, and just make sure you get enough. Give yourself enough time to digest your meal, typically 1-3 hours depending on your routine. Always eat what works for you! Common runner foods are cereal or oatmeal with milk and a banana, eggs with toast and Powerade, or a bagel with peanut butter.

  2. Fat overload the night before. Continue to eat a high-carb diet during training make sure you aren’t overloading the fat, especially the night before the race. It’s not the time to chow on greasy pizza or load up on creamy Alfredo pasta. You want to keep fat to a minimum, as a high fat meal can lead to sluggish muscles and tummy troubles. Go for the tomato sauce instead of cheesy or oily sauces, and skip the butter, sour cream, and fried food the day before. You still need protein too, just don’t fry it and go for lean meats like fish, eggs, turkey or chicken.

  3. Eating something new. This is a nutrition no-no. Make sure you stick to your tried-and-true training diet and avoid new foods and foods that upset your stomach. If you have a sensitive stomach to spicy, dairy, or gassy foods like beans, broccoli, or carbonated beverages avoid them! Don’t try anything new pre-race or during race, stick to the same gels, sport chews, and fluids you used during training. If you’re not a coffee drinker, don’t be tempted with a cup of Joe race morning.  If you normally drink it prior to your long runs, by all means enjoy!

  4. Only drinking water. During the marathon the goal is to prevent dehydration and to keep your blood sugar stable. When you run, not only are you burning carbohydrates, you also lose electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium through sweat. Sports drinks are formulated to give your body the right amount of carbs and electrolytes to help prevent dehydration and low blood sugar. Aim to drink 4-8oz or “gulps” (1oz= 1 big gulp or 2 sips) sports drink every 15-20 minutes during the race.

  5. Not eating after the race. Whether you are super smiley or feel like you want to collapse at the finish line, make sure to get fluids, carbs and sodium into your body as soon as possible, but definitely within 30 minutes after the race. Grab some snacks at the tent afterwards or ask your fans if they would carry your favorites so that you have them immediately after the race. Aim to have protein within two hours of your finish to supply your muscles with the protein it needs to heal, and don’t forget to power up with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables too to speed up your recovery time.


If you have any questions or comments, tweet me @DietDivaTara.

Known as the "Diet Diva", Tara Gidus is a nationally acclaimed nutrition expert and the official nutritionist of runDisney.