Race Day Fueling: Preparation is Key

From the start of your training cycle is the ideal time to start planning out your fueling strategy not just for race day, but also for the days leading up to race day too and then give that strategy.

Planning your nutrition and hydration strategy gives you one less thing to worry about on race day. Starting that process now gives you time to confirm or tweak your plan so it’s right for you. Everyone has different needs and preferences when it comes to hydration and nutrition for race performance so it’s important you have a strategy that works for you.

Questions to think about

  • What gels/fuel will you use during the race?
  • Will you use your own or use some that the race provides on course (or a mixture of the 2).
  • How often will you take this fuel? Will you take one before the race starts?
  • Will you be using caffeinated gels or tablets during the race?
  • What will you use for hydration? How often? Just water or rotate between water and gatorade (or whatever is supplied on the course)?
  • What electrolyte mix will you use in the days leading up to the race?
  • What meals will you use to fuel your body in the days leading up to the race? What will be your last meal the night before? What will you eat for breakfast?
  • What time will you eat that last meal the night before and what time will you eat breakfast?
Aid Station Fueling

Photo of Human Powered Movement providing fueling options at the Killer Creek 50k in Waxhaw, NC.

Once you have a plan (and right now it’s just a plan), you can go out and give it a test run in the coming weeks. You want to replicate as much as you can of what you will do on the days leading up to the race and race day itself. Write down your findings. 

  • How did your stomach respond? 
  • Was it easy to take on that amount of fuel? 
  • How were your energy levels during the run? 
  • Do you need more fuel? 
  • How did you feel post run?

Use the information you have gathered from your test run to alter your strategy for the next test run/week. I like to test run the gels I’m using frequently on my long runs (and sometimes a workout), but I specifically like to do 2 very focused test weeks spread out during my training cycle for a marathon. I’ll do one test week around 10-12 weeks out and another one 4-6 weeks out and these are the times I focus on the days leading up to a long run too. For those on an advanced plan that includes a workout during a long run, try to target those weeks as these will better simulate race conditions.

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