Race Day Fuel with Pip Taylor

Got a race coming up? Plan out your race day breakfast to fuel your way to your best performance and avoid GI issues. 

The pre-race breakfast is your last opportunity to fuel up. Get it wrong and you might spend all day in the port-a-loos or just have a sub-par performance. 

Just like training for a race, there might be some practice that goes into finding what works for you, it’s important to test a few things out in training first.

What and how much you eat for breakfast pre-race may in part depend on what you have eaten the day before. If you are racing a 5, 10 or even a half marathon, then you probably don’t need to worry about ‘carb loading’. Simply a day of reduced training and usual eating will ensure muscle glycogen stores are topped up and ready to race. If you are lining up for a marathon, or completing your first half, then the day before may be more of a concerted effort to get some quality carbs in. This doesn’t mean going overboard and overeating – simply shifting what you are eating to be more carb based and lower on protein and fat. The last thing you want is to wake up feeling full, sluggish or not able to face eating any breakfast. 

Assuming then you’ve got your hydration and fuelling spot on the days preceding the race, your pre-race meal can be relatively light and simple. The goal is just to top off energy stores. 

What to eat?

Pre-race meals are about simplicity, convenience and fuelling. They must sit comfortably, and ideally are foods that you are familiar with and have tested out in training and/or other races previously. 

Glucose is going to be a primary fuel, over all race distances (save arguably ultra distance events), carbs are still king when it comes to the pre-race breakfast. In addition, going too heavy on the protein or fat can cause GI troubles, especially once the nerves of race day are thrown into the mix. You might find that breakfast and even the day before, that slightly more refined and less fibrous foods are easier to digest and might help minimize GI distress in the days preceding a race/competition. Try foods such as white rice, sports foods and drinks, cooked and peeled fruits to replace some of your fruits and vegetables.

How much to eat? 

Most races start early – and while you want to give yourself plenty of time between eating and toeing the lines, there is a balance between that and sacrificing sleep. If the gun goes by or before 7am, then you’ve likely got a 2 hour or less window to eat. 

As a guide, aim for 1-2g/kg of carbohydrate. For a 70kg runner this might look like a banana and a sports drink or a bagel with honey. 

If you’ve got a more leisurely start time, then you might be eating 4 hours or so prior to the start. In this case, aim for 3-4g/kg of carbs and then an additional small snack 30-60 mins prior (this might be a gel, banana or small sports drink).

What do I eat when traveling for a race?

There are still plenty of race appropriate breakfasts that you can pull together in a hotel room, even with limited or no cooking facilities. 

Try these ideas out (try them at home first of course!)

Got a microwave?

Try instant oatmeal cups or sachets or rice pudding sachets.

Got a fridge?

Try overnight oats or oat and chia ‘pudding’ cups.

Just a kettle?

Instant oatmeal.

Nothing at all?

  • PB and J sandwich or honey sandwich 
  • Tinned rice pudding
  • Banana
  • Sports drink
  • Liquid meal/shake


– Pip Taylor

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