If you want to stay energized all the way to the end, you need the proper nutrition for your first 5K. It starts with good nutritional meals while you’re training that replace the vital nutrients and help your body repair after a tough workout. Get a good balance of carbs, protein and healthy fat with a daily amount of about 2.5 grams of carbs and 0.5 grams of protein for each pound you weight daily. Don’t forget the healthy fats, either. Nuts, salmon and butter from grass fed cows are good sources of Omega 3s, which help lower inflammation and speed your recovery time.
Get plenty of these specific nutrients.
While you need a well balanced diet containing all nutrients, three vitamins and minerals are particularly important. Iron is often lost when running, so add some extra lean red meat, lentils or leafy greens to your diet. If you want to maintain muscle function and bone health, eat foods high in calcium. Dairy, bone broth, sardines and leafy greens provide it. Don’t forget the vitamin B if you want to maintain your energy level. Snack on nuts to increase this nutrient.
Don’t worry about carbo-loading.
Eating a diet higher in carbohydrates, while you cut back on fats and protein may be good for races that take 90 minutes or longer. Unless you’re really, really slow (which is okay—at least you’re trying), you’ll finish the race a lot quicker. You won’t need the extra fuel from just eating healthy before the race. In fact, carbo-loading could actually make you feel sick and slow you down when the race starts.
Keep your breakfast light and make it a few hours before the race.
You want to eat something before a morning race, but not a heavy breakfast and not as you’re headed for the starting line. Eating a meal that contains200 to 300 calories, is low in hard to digest fiber and fat and comes from unprocessed carbs is best. Keep the fiber under ten grams and steer clear of spicy foods to avoid an upset stomach. If the race is later in the day or at night, follow the same protocol for lunch and dinner.
- Make sure you stay hydrated, drink about 20 ounces of fluids a few hours before the race and another ten ounces about 20 minutes before the race starts.
- Test drive some breakfasts before you go for training so you know what works the best. For example, you might find that a bagel, small apple and an 8-oz sports drink works better for you than a bowl of oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar. Try a few different combinations and go with the best one the day of the race.
- Take a snack along in case you’re hungry before the race. A small banana, some animal crackers or anything to curb the hunger that’s about 100 to 200 calories will do.
- Several weeks before the race, practice mock up races that start the same time as your first 5 K. Create sample diets to eat before the race and see what helps you feel and do your best. Not everyone reacts to specific foods in the same way, find out what works best for you.