What to Eat Before a 10k

Knowing what to eat before a 10k can be tricky – it’s longer than a 5k but it’s still fast-paced. You need proper fueling for optimal performance. This post will review what to eat the day before a 10k and the night before.

group of male runners

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So you’re ready to run your first 10k – exciting! Knowing what to eat before can help reduce any GI discomfort and help you feel energized until the end.

A 10k (6.2 miles) is no easy feat, especially for beginner runners. Fueling your body before a 10k is important to give your body the energy it needs in order to perform its best.

Here, we’ll take a look at what to eat before a 10k and some different eating scenarios based on whether it’s a morning race or an afternoon or nighttime race.

General Nutrition Tips for 10K Running

To start, for runners, it is important that your diet is adequate. According to a runner’s performance plate, a runner’s diet should be high in carbohydrates (45-65% of total calories) to provide the body with adequate energy.

performance plate hard training day

Carbohydrates are needed to fill the muscles with glycogen, the storage form of glucose that fuels endurance exercise.

As your training mileage increases, so do your calorie needs, especially calories from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are more easily and quickly digested than protein or fat, so runners need to be eating them consistently.

It is also important to consume sufficient amounts of protein in order to maintain or build muscle.

Protein provides the tools (amino acids) to build and repair damaged muscles from the miles of training done each week.

yogurt parfait with granola and fruit in glass jar

Fat is the other macronutrient and should be consumed daily along with carbohydrates and protein.

Fat provides more calories than carbs and protein, which can be helpful for runners who have higher calorie needs or who struggle to eat enough.

Fat also helps to manage inflammation and keeps you feeling full and satisfied after eating.

A long distance runner’s diet should also include a lot of colorful fruits and vegetables, as these provide vitamins and minerals to help with muscle soreness and recovery.

What to eat the Week Before a 10k Race

Good news – you don’t need to drastically change your diet the week before a 10k race.

You don’t need to worry about carb loading, but your diet should be adequate in carbohydrates to ensure your muscles are recovered and have sufficient glycogen levels.

bowl of soup on table with squash in background

What to Eat the Night Before a 10k

If you are running a 10k race in the morning, it’s important to eat a balanced and proper meal the night before a 10k.

When deciding what to eat the night before a 10k, you’ll want to choose something familiar to you and something that is high carb, low fat, and low fiber.

This is why many runners love pasta.

plate of spaghetti with sauce and cheese

The reason we give these recommendations (high in carbohydrates, and low in fat and fiber) is so it doesn’t sit too heavy on the stomach or cause any unwanted GI issues.

Since there is more time between the meal the night before and the actual race, you may choose to eat a larger meal at night than the morning of your 10k.

Here are some key points about eating the night before your 10k race.

  • Carbohydrates should make up the bulk of your meal. When choosing carbohydrate foods the night before a race, you’ll want to choose items that are lower in fiber, such as white bread, white pasta, white potatoes without skin, etc.
  • Protein – Eating some low-fat protein the night before a 10k helps to ensure fullness and may help to minimize muscle breakdown during/after the race. Your protein choice may include meat, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, tofu, protein powder, etc.
  • Fat – You can also eat some fat the night before a 10k, depending on personal preference and tolerance to these foods. You’ll want to keep the portion size small to moderate. This may include butter, cheese, avocado, nuts or nut butter, etc. Similar to protein, these foods can help you to feel full and satisfied for longer than carbohydrates alone.
  • Fiber – You may choose to eat some vegetables the night before, depending on personal preference and tolerance to these foods. You’ll want to choose lower-fiber vegetables such as carrots, spinach, or zucchini. Eating cooked vegetables rather than raw will also help with digestion.
  • You’ll want to experiment with your meal the night before a race and have a go-to meal (or several options) that you feel confident with.

Meal Examples for Dinner Before a 10k Race

  • White pasta with marinara sauce, grilled chicken, breadsticks, and water
  • Grilled fish with rice, low-fiber veggies, a dinner roll, and water
  • Pancakes with maple syrup, scrambled eggs with spinach, and a glass of low-fat milk
  • Peanut butter and jelly on bread or a bagel, a banana, and some low-fat yogurt
  • A few slices of pizza with a small salad

There’s nothing set in stone. It’s important to find what works best for you. Everyone is different!

peanut butter and jelly on bread

What to Eat the Morning of a 10K

On the morning of a 10k, you’ll want to consume something easy to digest and high in carbohydrates – such as bread, bagel, low-fiber fruits or fruit juice, dairy (if that sits well with you), cereal, etc.

You may want to include a little bit of lean protein or a little bit of fat to keep you full and satisfied longer, but nothing that sits too heavy or causes you any GI issues.

This is ideally something you have already practiced!

plate of bagels

Examples of breakfast ideas before a 10k:

  • White bagel or bread + peanut butter + banana + low-fat milk
  • Oatmeal with some nuts or nut butter + berries + cinnamon
  • 2 waffles with syrup or honey and a banana
  • Fruit smoothie such as strawberry, banana, pineapple + Greek yogurt + almond milk
  • Yogurt parfait with fruit & granola

Or, use these ideas for a race day breakfast.

Again, you’ll want to experiment with this pre-race meal or snack during training to find what works best for you and doesn’t cause any GI issues.

If you feel unable to eat breakfast prior to an early morning race, consuming ~30 grams of easily digested carbohydrates (e.g., banana, sports gel, or sports drink) 30 minutes before the race may improve performance and energy.

What to Eat Before a 10k Evening Race

If your race isn’t first thing in the morning, you can still apply the fueling principles described above.

You’ll still want to eat a carb-rich meal the night before the race.

With the race being later in the day, you’ll likely want to (and be able to) eat more for breakfast because you’ll have longer to digest the food prior to the race start.

bowl of oatmeal with sliced bananas

If your race is in the afternoon, you may have time for a pre-race lunch, which would be similar to the pre-race breakfast ideas listed above – high carb, low fat, low fiber, and something you are familiar with that works well for you.

Depending on how big your breakfast was and what time the race is, you may just have a high-carb snack around lunchtime as an additional pre-race fueling option.

Some high-carb snack options include granola bars, fruit, juice, toast, or an english muffin.

If your race is in the evening, you will want to have breakfast and lunch, plus 1-2 snacks before the race.

Again, these should be mostly high-carb, low-fat, and low-fiber so that you don’t feel anything too heavy in your stomach for the race.

With an afternoon or evening race time, you’ll also want to make sure you are drinking plenty throughout the day leading up to the race.

people running together

Do I Need to Drink Water During a 10k?

It is always good to start out adequately hydrated before a race of any distance.

While some people may be able to finish a 10k without fueling or taking in water, that isn’t the case for everyone.

There may be a water stop on the course, but if not, you can bring your own.

If you are a salty sweater, make sure to add in electrolytes to your liquid(s).

volunteer holding water bottle out during race

Increasing your fluid intake in the days leading up to the race, the night before, and the morning of is going to be good practice to reach adequate fluid status.

A general rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water or other non-caloric beverages per day.

For example: a 160-pound runner will need to drink a minimum of 80 oz. per day. Additional fluids will likely be needed before, during, and after exercise.

Hydration status can also be determined by checking your urine color. Urine can range from light yellow to dark yellow or almost brown.

Leaning towards a light yellow indicates proper hydration; whereas, a darker yellow indicates dehydration and the need to consume more fluids.

Hydration Tips Before a 10k

To summarize, here are some hydration tips before a 10k.

  • 2-3 hours before the start, drink 20 oz. water or sports drink
  • 10-20 minutes before the start, drink 10 oz. water or sports drink

What to Eat Before a 5k vs 10k

If this is your first 10k, you may be wondering what to do differently, if anything, before this race versus before a 5k.

A 10k is twice the distance of a 5k so the answer is that you’ll likely want to eat more before a 10k than you would a 5k.

It doesn’t have to be double, necessarily, but it needs to be enough to provide you with the energy to cover the 6.2 miles.

Let’s say you normally eat a cup of pasta with marinara sauce, grilled chicken breast, and two breadsticks the night before a 5k.

If you want to use this meal for the night before a 10k, you may try increasing the amounts slightly such as having a cup and a half of pasta or adding a third breadstick.

Maybe you add some fruit for dessert.

participants running a 10k

The morning before a 5k, you may have two slices of toast with peanut butter plus a cup of low-fat milk.

If you want to use this meal for the morning before a 10k, you may try increasing the amounts slightly such as having a bagel with peanut butter plus a cup of low-fat milk, and/or adding a banana to the meal.

Again, this is all up to you, and finding what works for you. It is better to be over-fueled than to be under-fueled and run out of gas during the race!

You’ll want to experiment during training to find what is the right amount for you to feel well-fueled but to not cause any GI issues during the race.

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