Q: What are Your Favorite Pre and Post Race Meals?

From: Cross Country Crazy
Age: High School
Experience: Intermediate

Hey Lauren!

I was just wondering what your favorite Pre and Post-race meals are. From the day before, to the morning of your race and afterwards! Thank you so much!

-Cross Country Crazy




Thanks for the question! You’re in good company with this one.

When I am choosing my fuel around race time I have three objectives I try to meet:

  1. Provides enough fuel in calories for me to perform my best (two small dinners)
  2. Low risk foods that won’t land me on the toilet (NOT cabbage and lentils)
  3. Sets me up to recover faster (Picky Bars and Montmorency Tart Cherry juice)


The first one isn’t as simple as it seems. There’s eating, and then there’s eating smart. You want the majority of the calories you eat to be stored as glycogen, which is the most readily available fuel for you in the race. If you eat any more than about 600 calories at a sitting, or if your meal is totally unbalanced, you trigger the production of triglycerides which means some of your fuel goes to fat stores instead of glycogen, and unless your race is an ultra, fuel stored that way doesn’t do you much good in the race. To eat more than 600 calories and be able to use it all efficiently, you need to give your body a rest after 600 calories for an hour or two to digest, and then eat more. Most athletes mistakenly eat a huge meal all at once the night before a race, but if they were to split it up, they’d get much better results! You don’t necessarily have to sit there and count calories. I know my meal is about the right size if it fits on a normal sized plate, and is composed of the basic items in #2, below.


It’s important to know how to avoid gastrointestinal distress without being overly paranoid. Chicken (or salmon if it’s a reputable place), served with some kind of carbohydrate/starch like rice, pasta, tortilla, bread, or potatoes, and some vegetables that are easy on the gut (I prefer steamed or a simple salad) works great for me. That can come in many forms: pizza, pasta, burrito, you name it. I avoid high fiber foods like beans, lentils, raw broccoli, cabbage, etc.


As for recovery, this one is big. Recovering well means less pain for you, decreased risk of injuries resulting from depletion, and the ability to get back into the groove of training sooner. Addressing recovery in your pre-race nutrition is known as “precovery.” Eating enough is a good start. When you don’t deplete your body down deep to it’s reserves, it’s easier to bounce back. Also eating around 200 calories within 15-30 minutes of finishing your race makes a MASSIVE difference by restocking your muscle glycogen while it’s eager and willing to take it (despite what your stomach may be saying). A Picky Bar is perfectly designed for exactly this reason, so I’d recommend that. Also in your athletic bag, I’d pack a water bottle filled with 8 oz tart cherry juice and filled the rest of the way with water.

Tart cherry juice has become a trend among elites and weekend warriors. I’m working with the Cherry Marketing Institute and the science is compelling. Runners who drank Juice from Montmorency Tart Cherries  before and after a race had their strength return faster than runners who drank something else. In another study, cyclists who drank 2 servings a day for seven days leading into a 3 day stage race had significantly reduced inflammation and oxidative stress. Two 8oz cups a day (or 2oz concentrate shots)  is about 100 tart cherries. There are also lots of recipes on choosecherries.com for ways to incorporate tart cherries into your diet but basically you want to up your intake for about one week before and a day or two after a race. 


Want specifics?

Here’s exactly what I plan to do this year for my races in 2015.

Day Before

  • Breakfast: Five minute savory oats with a fried egg, basil, salt and pepper on it, water, and coffee.
  • Post run snack: Picky Bar and a glass of tart cherry juice. And water.
  • Lunch: Turkey sandwich with everything on it or leftovers from the night before, and water.
  • Snack: plain yogurt with berries and chia seeds, or toast with peanut butter, and water.
  • Dinner: BBQ chicken pizza (half at restaurant, half at home), a side salad, and plenty of water. Sometimes a glass of wine (obviously not until you’re 21).
  • Night time snack: glass of tart cherry juice and a hunk of dark chocolate.

Day of Race

  • Breakfast: Coffee, one egg, oatmeal with brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and slivered almonds, glass of tart cherry juice.
  • Last minute snack: Half a Picky Bar 60 minutes before, or a gel 15 minutes before.
  • Immediately Post Race: Picky Bar, big water bottle with 8 oz tart cherry juice diluted the rest of the way with water.
  • Within 90 minutes: at least 600 more calories. If I can’t get a greasy burger with fries right away, I eat whatever is on hand and get the burger for dinner.
  • Dinner: the aforementioned burger.