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October 12, 2010

Nutrition plays a key role in keeping your pace during a race

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a post on nutrition topics. Have questions or ideas for future topics? Email This week, Shanti Lewis, RD, CNSD, CSP, weighs in on what to eat before, during and after the Baltimore Running Festival.

The Baltimore Running Festival kicks off Sunday Saturday with a marathon, half marathon, relay race, 5K and kids' race. Nutrition plays a key role in optimizing performance on race day. It is critical to track how you hydrate, fuel and recover as you train to perform your best, especially if you are running the marathon.

In the days prior to the race, make sure you keep your tank full. One of the most important eating habits of a person training for a marathon is to eat balanced meals containing grains, protein, fruit/vegetables and a small amount of fat every three to four hours in the weeks before the race. Hydration, adequate nutrition before and during the race day, and a recovery meal are essential to performing your best on race day.

The following tips will help you prepare as the marathon and half marathon approach.

Hydrate, Morning, Noon, and Night

Drink only plain water if exercising less than 60 minutes per day 

Use sports drinks (containing water, carbohydrate, and sodium) only if exercising more than 60 minutes

Drink 2 cups of water 1-2 hours before your run

Drink 6-12 oz of water every 15-20 minutes during your run

Weigh yourself before and after a run and drink 2-3 cups of water for every pound lost 

After a long run or race, continue to drink fluids until urine is almost clear 

Carry a water bottle with you everywhere 

Monitor for signs of dehydration while you train, such as thirst, weakness, dizziness, lack of coordination, muscle cramps and nausea/vomiting

Dinner before the Race

Limit alcohol, sodium and caffeine

Aim for drinking 2 cups of water per hour

Try a high carbohydrate dinner to spare muscle glycogen

Avoid high fiber and high fat foods since they are harder to digest

Choose foods that are low fat and low fiber

Some examples of dinner foods could include pasta with a tomato-based sauce, rice and vegetable stir-fry with a small amount of lean meat, grilled vegetable sandwich or sushi rolls.

Know the Buzz about Caffeine

Caffeine may help with you perform at a higher intensity 

Limited studies show that caffeine causes dehydration 

Stick with a moderate does of caffeine 70-210 mg (approximately one cup of coffee) an hour prior to exercise to enhance performance

Maintain Energy Levels during the Race

Aim for mostly simple carbohydrate, such as sports drinks, energy gels, jelly beans 

Use trial and error to find out what is well tolerated and easily digestible for you

Avoid drinks or food that has fructose as the first ingredient 

Choose sports drinks containing water, sugar (7 percent), sodium and potassium

Avoid drinking soda and juice

 Recovery Meals 

Optimal recovery and repair is within the first 4-6 hours after the race 

Consume a high carbohydrate beverage (i.e. Gatorade) within 15 minutes post-race

Try a high carbohydrate snack with a little protein, such as crackers and low fat string cheese within 2 hours post-race 

4 hours post-race- eat a high carbohydrate meal with moderate amount of protein, such as spaghetti with lean ground beef, rice and chicken 

Choose simple carbohydrates to maximize muscle glycogen stores 

Drink fluids until urine is clear or a pale yellow

You can check out and for more information about different races, training tips, nutrition advice, etc.

Tell us your favorite marathon training foods in the comments.

References: Burkle, L. Preparation for Competition. In: Burke L, Dean V. eds. Clinical Sports Nutrition. McGraw-Hill Companies, Australia, 2006; 355-384. Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance, JADA 2009; 109: 509-527.

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore Running Festival, Nutrition


Yes your article is informative, but there is one HUGE fact that is incorrect. The Baltimore running festival is this SATURDAY, NOT SUNDAY as stated in the article. In the future PLEASE verify your information before going to print.

Thanks, Keith. This is indeed an unfortunate error. I'll send your comment to our editors so we can run a correction. - Patrick

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About Exercists
Andrea Siegel, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, covers mostly crime and courts in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, as well as legal issues. She wishes she was more physically fit, and, as she's more fond of chocolate than exercise, fitness is a challenge. Her partner on a one-mile-plus daily walk is the family dog, a mixed breed named Moxie, and she exercises at the gym where the D.C. snipers once worked out.
Jerry Jackson has been a photo editor at The Baltimore Sun for 14 years and an avid cyclist for more than 30 years. Inspired by the movie "Breaking Away," he started racing as a teenager in Mississippi when leather "brain baskets" were still the norm. He regularly commutes to work by bike and still enters several mountain bike races a year for fun.
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Patrick Maynard, who will be writing about running and walking, has been a producer for since 2008. In 2009, he tweeted on-course for the Sun from the Baltimore Marathon, finishing in just under 4 hours and almost managing to run the whole time. He sometimes walks to the Sun offices on Calvert Street.
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Leeann Adams, a multimedia editor at The Baltimore Sun, also dabbles in content for the mobile website and iPhone app and covers the Ravens via video. She did a triathlon to celebrate her 40th birthday and continues to swim, bike and run -- none of them quickly, though. Her biggest fitness challenge is to balance working, working out, spending time with her husband and being a mom to a 6-year-old boy.
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Anica Butler, the Sun's crime editor, is a former high school runner and recovering vegetarian who spent more of her early-adult years on a bar stool than working out. She is currently training (though poorly) for a half marathon and is trying to live a generally healthier lifestyle. She also hates the gym.
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