Running a half-marathon is no small feat (just ask any runner out there!). Weeks upon weeks of training are crucial to successfully complete a race injury-free and with a time you’re happy with. Follow YouBeauty staffers Julie Ricevuto and Amy Marturana as we train, interview professionals and address every running concern we can think of to prepare for our very first half-marathon on April 19!

You’ve been training your butt off for 12 weeks leading up to a half-marathon. And then you wake up on race day, eat something that doesn’t agree with your stomach, and find yourself doubling over in cramps instead of sailing through the finish line. Weeks of preparation can all be for naught if you flake the morning of. But if you fuel up properly before reaching the starting line, your body will be primed to perform optimally — maybe even giving you a better time than you had planned.

So, what’s the best thing to eat before running a half-marathon? While everyone may have different go-to foods, the general rule of thumb is to focus on carbs. “Not only are they your body’s first source of energy, they are also easy to digest and less likely to upset your stomach during a workout than large amounts of protein or fat,” Sarah-Jane Bedwell, R.D., consultant to CLIF and LUNA and author of Schedule Me Skinny: Plan to Lose Weight and Keep it Off in Just 30 Minutes a Week, explained to YouBeauty. Fat and protein both digest slowly in the body, so your body can’t grab onto them for quick, immediate energy — which is what you need during the race. It’s OK if what you eat has a little bit of both of those, but it should be minimal. And also, avoid fiber. The last thing you want is to waste time stopping in the lovely Port-o-Potties along the race route.

The sweet spot to eat timing-wise is about 2 hours before your race. This gives your body time to digest and store the energy, but isn’t enough time for you to start using it up yet. You also don’t want to confuse your body. If you’ve been eating something specific before your long runs during training, stick to that. If you don’t have an idea of what works for you yet, start trying it out now. Race morning is not the time to try a new meal bar or shake that you’ve never had before and realize it was a mistake!

Carbohydrates come in many different forms and really any will do the trick. Some of the best options morning of:

  • a bowl of oatmeal
  • a banana
  • toast
  • a bagel
  • rice cakes
  • dried fruit

Play around with different combos and find a meal that you like, sits well, and is easy to make. Keep in mind you’ll probably be nervous the morning of, and waking up earlier than you’re used to, so that may impact what you’re able to stomach. Whatever your poison, aim to get around 60 grams of carbohydrates. You can check out this handy chart to calculate the amount that’s best for you, depending on your weight.

Also important: make sure to refuel throughout the race. Most organized races will have things like energy gel or jelly beans along the way, once you get past 6 miles or so. The key is focusing on carbs still, but specifically, sugar. These snacks are meant to give you a spurt of energy and push you, and a sugary snack will keep you going without weighing you down with protein and fat. Good luck!

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