What To Eat Before A 10K Race

When preparing for a 10K race, the way you fuel your body can have a dramatic effect. A nutritional plan is as important as a running plan. Your body requires the right preparation and fuel before and on race day to ensure you are in the best physical condition.

What should you eat before a 10K?

When preparing for a 10K race – in the days before – you should eat a well-balanced diet consisting of lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and unsaturated fats, gradually increasing carbohydrate intake two to three days before the race. Dinner and breakfast before the race should consist mainly of carbohydrates.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at what you should eat in the days leading up to a 10K – as well as the night before, and on the morning of the race.

What To Eat Before A 10K (The Days Before)

What to eat before 10K

A well-balanced diet should serve the same purpose as your overall 10K training strategy: to help you perform at your absolute best when race day comes.

Many runners make the mistake of stocking up on the right type of food close to race day instead of fueling their bodies with the best types of food during the overall preparation for the race.

Eating correctly before, during, and after the 10K race will ensure a more positive racing experience. On race day, you should focus on one thing only; running your perfect race.

There are plenty of foods to avoid that will make you run slower – so what should you eat instead?

Foods To Eat While Preparing For A 10K

While preparing to run a 10K, you don’t run the same course all the time, as it becomes mundane after a while. Running is about exploring new tracks and routes and experiencing how far you can push your body.

And your nutrition should also reflect the diversity of running, so mix it up, and be certain that all your nutritional needs are met.

Lots Of Protein

Muscles rely on protein. Hence, taking in lean protein on a daily basis is highly recommended as you prepare for an upcoming race. Ideally, it would help your body if you were looking for high protein sources simultaneously low in fat and calories. 

Sources of lean protein include:

  • Skinless White Meat Poultry: A cooked chicken or turkey breast of 3.5 ounces (100-gram) comes to about 30 grams of lean protein. To avoid extra fat and calories, remove the skin from the breast. To ensure you get the leanest source of protein from poultry, try to avoid the darker drumsticks and thigh parts.
  • White-Fleshed Fish: White-fleshed fish are the perfect source of protein as most types produce 20 to 25 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces (100 gram) portion, containing less than 3 grams of fat and only 85 to 130 calories. Cod, bass, haddock, grouper, tilapia, and halibut are examples of white-fleshed fish. 
  • Lean Beef: Lean beef is cuts of beef with less than 10 grams of total fat and less than 4.5 saturated fat per 3.5-ounce (100 gram) serving. Lean beef includes sirloin, tenderloin, and round steak. Ground beef used for burger patties should be at least 90% lean, whereas a 4-ounce cooked patty will supply 24 grams of protein, vitamin B, and zinc.
  • Plain Greek Yogurt: Eating a 6-ounce (170 gram) serving will result in 15 to 20 grams of protein and has less sugar than regular yogurt.
  • Low Fat Cottage Cheese: Eating one cup (226 grams) low-fat (2% milk fat) cottage cheese provides 28 grams of protein.

Aim to get a minimum of 20 grams of protein in at every mealtime or every 3 to 4 hours daily to support lean muscle mass.

Lean muscle mass is perfectly suited to the speed-endurance requirements of a 10K race.

Turkey lean meat
Turkey is one of the most popular sources of lean meat protein

Lots Of Fruits And Vegetables

Yep, mother was right. 

Numerous healthy vitamins and minerals can be found in fruits and vegetables. These include folic acid, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and the vitamins A (beta-carotene), C, and E. Try to eat what’s in season, and make sure to eat different colors of vegetables and fruits containing different nutrients and plant chemicals.

The National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia suggests that all adults should aim to eat five kinds of vegetables, and two kinds of fruit every day, for maximum health advantages.

A simple eating tactic is to ensure that half of each meal or snack is made of fruits and vegetables.

Steer Clear Of Processed Foods With Added Sugars

Processed foods are full of added who-knows-what and sugars, which isn’t good for a runner’s diet, or any diet for that matter.

The added sugars in processed foods pack in unnecessary calories that will cause massive arcs in energy levels, often leaving you with a slump after consuming them. 

When preparing for a race, stick with foods from farmers’ markets, fresh produce sections, meat counters, and health sections.

You are what you eat, and what you eat leading up to a race will affect the race day, either in a good way or in a way that can make you question if running is really for you.

Absorb Good Fats

Fats are necessary for healthy joints, eyes, skin, hair, and nails and vitamin absorption. They make food taste more flavorful and help you stay satiated for longer.

Instead of going for a low-fat diet, try to incorporate a diet that contains “good” unsaturated fats while avoiding dangerous “bad” trans fats and limiting your intake of foods heavy in saturated fat.

  •  Great, nutritious sources of fat for the diet include avocados, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, olives, coconut, and nut butter. Try to add a portion with every meal, or at least once a day.
  • “Bad” Trans Fats: Even in modest doses, trans fats raise the risk of disease. Trans fats are mostly found in processed foods manufactured with partially hydrogenated oil trans-fat. Thankfully, trans fats are no longer present in many food sources today.
  • Saturated Fats: While less toxic than trans fats, saturated fats harm health and are best consumed in moderation. Red meat, cheese, butter, and ice cream are a few examples of foods high in saturated fat. 

Contrary to earlier dietary advice that advocated low-fat diets, more recent research demonstrates that good fats are essential and advantageous for health.

Load The Carbohydrates

Healthy carbs for 10k

Your body uses carbohydrates as its primary fuel because they swiftly transform into blood sugar, also known as glucose, which is used to provide you with energy.

It’s beneficial to load up on carbohydrates to increase glycogen stores but do it gradually rather than in a big way before a race. 

Try increasing your carbohydrate consumption 2-3 days before your race to fill your muscle and liver glycogen stores rather than eating an unlimited amount of spaghetti the night before.

Include high-quality carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, and your preferred vegetables and protein. 

In the weeks leading up to your 10K race, be sure to acquaint yourself with the foods best for your stomach. We’ve all heard stories on forums of the amateur runner who eats badly for weeks before a race then demolishes a vat of pasta the night thinking: “I’ll smash my personal best…I’ve loaded up on Penne!”

Well, if you’re not used to running on a belly full of pasta, Race Day is a bad day to experiment when you’re trying to beat your 10K personal best!

Before you start your mileage, experiment during your training to find out what foods you can and cannot tolerate. Once you know what your body responds well to, that’s what you should be eating in the days and hours leading up to the race.

What To Eat The Night Before The 10K

The night before the big race presents the last chance to prepare your body for what is to come the following day.

Steer clear from any alcohol intake as it can lead to dehydration and deplete muscle glycogen reserves that you have built up during your preparation – wreaking chaos on your pacing strategy.

Have a carb-based meal in the evening, which can include cereal, pasta, rice, or potatoes. Lean protein is acceptable, but try to avoid foods with excessive amounts of fat, such as cheese sauces, pastries, and cream, which can make food sit heavy in your stomach and take longer to digest.

What To Eat The Morning Before The 10K

It’s best to eat breakfast 2-3 hours before the start of the marathon. Once more, the focus here should be on carbohydrates, ideally with some high glycemic carbs thrown in:

  • Cereal
  • Banana
  • Oats with honey
  • Toast with jam
  • Cereal bars with yogurt and fruit
  • Bowl of granola with berries and almond milk

This type of breakfast will assist in restoring the amounts of muscle glycogen, the stored energy in your muscles and liver. When the race is very early in the morning, and you can’t stomach eating a full breakfast before the race, you will still need to eat something to boost blood sugar levels. 

Try to get some of the following into your system, as anything is better than running on an empty stomach:

  • Energy Gel: Take one at least 5 minutes before the start of the race.
  • Energy Tablets: These dehydration tablets work well to combat fatigue caused by dehydration and restore electrolytes lost through sweat. One of the best supplements for runners.
  • Energy Stroopwafel: Lesser known, but one of our favorites! Eat two of these before a race as they are a source of complex and simple carbohydrates, sodium, and branch-chain amino acids.

From the moment you get up until the start of the race, try to drink at least 500ml of fluid.

A drink containing salt will improve body absorption, and the energy tablets listed above are ideal as a pre-race drink. Consider consuming caffeine before your run if you are an experienced 10K runner and want to push for a personal best. 

Some people are more susceptible to caffeine than others, but if you know that you love a cup of coffee in the morning, there’s a good chance you’ll get a boost from a cup before a race.

Final Thoughts on the 10K Diet Plan

Loading up on carbs the night or morning before a 10K race won’t magically equate to running your best race. Although it can certainly help.

If you really want to maximise the gains of nutrition in your 10K training, you have to start early.

Fuel the body correctly in the days and weeks leading up to the race. Avoid alcohol or excess sugar the night before. And stick to carbs for a strong showing at race time.

Author Profile

Alex Randall

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Alex is the editor at Revel Sports. It was his idea to take our post-club-run chats and build a website out of them. He is responsible for dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s when any of us have something to post. (Basically: it’s all his fault). A ferocious 5K powerhouse on his day, Alex is known for not understanding the meaning of the term ‘negative split‘.
Alex Randall

Revel SPorts Contributor

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