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Ask the RD: Alison Ozgur

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April 30, 2012

Alison is a Registered Dietitian specializing in health and fitness nutrition. She has nearly twelve years of experience helping clients reach their nutrition and weight loss goals. Do you have a question for Alison? Email us at

Q. What are some pre- and post-race meal ideas?

A. Whether you’re a runner, a recreational exerciser, or an elite athlete, following a plant-based diet will give you optimal endurance and performance! Full of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, these nutrient sources will meet your body’s demand.

Adequate hydration (addressed in question #2) and being well fueled are essential before any fitness event. Your muscles rely on glycogen for energy; this is where carbohydrate intake becomes so important. Prior to an event, it’s best to consume simple carbohydrates, which are your body’s first choice for fuel during intense exercise. Aim for 100 to 300 calories of carbohydrate-rich, easily digestible food. Best choices are: fruit, bagels, oatmeal, smoothies, or cereal. Solid foods should be eaten 2-3 hours before the race. Blended or liquid meals can be consumed 1-2 hours prior. It’s best to limit foods high in protein before a race, as it is not used for fueling your muscles. Skip the high fiber and high fat foods before the event.

Post-race nutrition should focus on replenishing glycogen stores in your muscles. Your intake should be carbohydrates plus protein. Best choices are: chocolate soy milk, hummus with veggies/crackers, trail mix, nut butter with apple or Dave’s Killer Bread, cereal with soy milk. If liquids are better tolerated, have a vegan protein recovery shake.

Everyone’s food tolerance is different, so test your pre-race meals during your training runs. If you’re an experienced runner, you know to never try any new food the morning of the event. Always stick to what you know your stomach can tolerate. This will help you avoid unexpected bathroom breaks out on the course.

Q. Is it important to drink sports-specific drinks before and after the race? Are things like electrolyte-enhanced water, coconut water, and even Gatorade really necessary?

A. Sport specific drinks are recommended for activities lasting more than 60 to 90 minutes. These drinks contain carbohydrates and electrolytes, both of which are beneficial for high intensity or endurance events. Sports gels taken with water will also provide the same replenishment during long events.

For shorter runs and walks, you should be hydrating your body with water. Drink up, both before and after the event. A good rule of thumb is to drink 14 to 22 ounces two hours prior to the event. After the event, drink 16 ounces for every pound lost. If you lost one pound (16 ounces), you’ve lost one pint (16 ounces) of sweat. If you lost two pounds, drink two pints of water (32 ounces).Your sweat loss can be calculated during your practice runs, since a scale is not readily available at a race. Optimal hydration status will enhance performance and prevent injury.

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