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What to Eat Before a Track Meet

Track meets are exciting but can be long. Depending on the size of the competition, you may be there for 4-6 hours or more. When you’re racing, you may be wondering what to eat during a track meet so that you have the lasting fuel to do your best. Today’s post will cover what you should eat before and during a track meet to optimize your race-day nutrition.

girl crossing finish line at track meet

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Are you a track athlete looking to get an edge on the competition? Paying attention to sports nutrition, and knowing what to eat before a track meet, may be the answer.

Whether you’re running the 100-meter dash or the 3200-meter run, you’ll need fuel properly and adequately to perform your best.

However, because track meets are lengthy and often include downtime between events, you may need to time your pre-race meals/snacks accordingly.

Similar to a cross country race, your snacks and meals leading up to your track meet can make a difference, for better or worse.

Plus, chances are, you’ll get hungry while you’re at the meet between events.

hurdles at a track meet

While you may be lured in by the concession food, it may not be the best choice for your pre-race fuel.

Choosing the right foods will ensure your body has the energy it needs. It’s also helpful to know what not to eat before a track meet too, to avoid GI and stomach discomfort and cramping.

In this post, we’re talking about what to eat before a track meet. Plus, we’ve included foods you can eat while you are at the track meet for optimal performance.

What to Know About Track Meets

Knowing the typical order of events at a track meet can help you plan your eating schedule. While each meet may vary slightly, there are key events that you can usually expect.

Once you have attended a track meet, you’ll have a better feel for the flow of it, and better be able to plan for the best times to eat.

indoor track meet setup

For example, if you’re running the 3200-meter, you may knot that this event usually occurs near the end of the meet. Therefore, that sandwich you ate 4 hours ago will likely not be enough to keep your muscles fueled and fresh.

Where your events fall in the meet schedule makes a difference for what to eat before a meet.

Here is a typical order. Keep in mind that the actual schedule is dependent on the race director.

  • 3200-meter relay (4×800)
  • 100/110-meter hurdles
  • 100-meter dash
  • 800-meter relay (4×200)
  • 1600-meter run
  • 400-meter relay (4×100)
  • 400-meter dash
  • 300-meter hurdles
  • 800-meter run
  • 200-meter dash
  • 3200-meter run
  • 1600-meter relay (4×400)

During the longer events, the boys and girls occasionally run at the same time. Otherwise, it usually goes boys first, then girls.

Meanwhile, the field events are taking place for running athletes to complete in between races.

  • Long jump
  • Triple jump
  • High jump
  • Shot put
  • Discus
  • Pole vault

It’s common for athletes to have more than one event. You may be finishing up a run and darting to the long jump pit to get in your jumps.

What To Eat Before a Track Meet

What should I eat before a track meet? While there will be individual preferences and differences, there are some general nutrition principles that we will discuss.

The fact of the matter is that all athletes benefit from eating well while training, including before training and the recovery period after.

Nutrition is a major part of muscle recovery and performance, so planning things to eat before a track meet ahead of time is ideal.

One big caveat: It’s important to note that you shouldn’t try new foods the day of the track meet. Familiar foods will ensure you don’t have stomach troubles.

runners on starting blocks on track

Whether you are a sprinter, high-jumper, mile runner, or a multi-event participant, you’ll want to properly fuel beforehand.

The primary source of fuel for athletes is carbohydrates. However, when you’re eating before a track meet may determine how much you should eat.

This list of carbs for runners can help you figure out where to start.

Carbohydrates are digested and turned into glucose—which produces energy in your cells. That’s why low carb running will not give you the best results.

Timing can get tricky. You want to make sure you have stored fuel, but you don’t want to risk upsetting your runner’s gut if you eat a big meal before you’re on the starting blocks.

We will break this down into three categories:

  • What to eat the night before a track meet
  • What to eat the morning before a track meet
  • And what to eat before an afternoon track meet

What to Eat the Night Before a Track Meet

When you eat carbohydrates, you store the additional energy you don’t need immediately as glycogen. Glycogen stores are then tapped into when you are racing, especially longer distances.

More complex carbs, or higher-fiber carbs, are better on days leading up to your track meet, rather than the night before.

Complex carbs are harder to digest, so the night before a meet, you’ll want carbs that are easy to digest. It’s not surprising that pasta for runners is a popular meal the day prior to the event.

plate of spaghetti with sauce and cheese

Including some lean protein the night before a race will help, too.

Protein will help you feel full and help you with muscle recovery post-race. Fat can also be eaten the night before, but you’ll want to avoid high-fat dishes like deep-fried foods.

Some meal ideas are:

What to Eat Before a Morning Track Meet

For a morning meet, you’ll have less time to fuel up. However, that doesn’t mean you should skip breakfast.

Breakfast for runners is essential. Your breakfast should include carbohydrates that are easy for you to digest and that you have had before.

Here are some examples:

  • oatmeal
  • toast or a bagel with peanut butter
  • toaster waffles
  • sweetpotato hash
  • greek yogurt with fruit
  • cereal with low-fat milk

Your breakfast before a morning track meet should be high in quick carbohydrates (low-fiber), low in fat, and moderate in protein.

bowl of oatmeal with fruit on it

You’ll also want to focus on hydration before your race.

Drink around 20 oz. of water two to three hours leading up to the event.

What to Eat Before an Afternoon Race or Track Meet

An afternoon race or track meet means you’ll have an opportunity to eat breakfast and lunch beforehand with adequate time to digest.

Hence, breakfast should be substantial and include plenty of carbs. You can pair your carbs with low-fat protein, like eggs, a protein shake for runners, peanut butter, greek yogurt, or deli meat.

If you have time for lunch (maybe you’re competing in late afternoon), you’ll want to eat/prioritize quick carbohydrates, but maybe a bit less fat.

The closer you get to your track meet, the more you’ll prioritize carbs for energy.

turkey sandwich on white bread

The best carbs for runners on race day are ones that your body digests easily and quickly, and again, that are familiar to you.

What you choose to eat before a track meet should never be something new that you’ve never had before!

A light, carb-focused lunch includes a sandwich with peanut butter and jelly, a deli meat sandwich, or tuna wrap on a tortilla. Add fruit and pretzels to boost your carb count.

These high carb lunches for runners should also give you many ideas! Additionally, don’t forget to stay hydrated throughout the day.

plate of breads and pastry items

What to Eat During a Track Meet

Now that we have shared ideas for what to eat before a track meet, let’s focus on what to eat during a track meet.

What you choose to eat while you’re at the meet depends on your events, and if applicable, the time you have between them. The good news is, that most athletes have time between races to fuel up.

Again, DO NOT EAT ANYTHING NEW! This isn’t the time to try the beefy nachos from the concession stand.

Homemade trail mix bars with cheerios

Go with foods you know your body tolerates. Research recommends to eat something high in easy-to-digest carbs and low in fat and fiber about 30-60 minutes before your race.

Here are some ideas:

blue water bottle

Ten to twenty minutes before you run, have ~10 oz of water. You can drink a sports drink or bring your own electrolyte drink, which is more important if competing in hotter weather.

After you’ve completed your events, it’s time to replenish.

Wondering what you should eat after your run? Aim for a combination of carbs and protein to help your body recover by replenishing glycogen stores and rebuilding muscle tissue.

You’ll also want to replace your fluid losses, especially if you’re a salty sweater. You will want to add additional electrolytes to your fluids and foods.

Now that the pressure is off, you can enjoy some goodies from the concession stand!

Key Takeaways

  • Track meets can be long in duration and include both running and field events.
  • Nutrition is an important part of athletic performance and should be prioritized by athletes of all kinds.
  • Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for athletes.
  • The night before a track meet, it is best to eat a meal high in easily digested carbohydrates, moderate protein, and a small amount of fat.
  • In the hours leading up to a race, eat a familiar meal with mostly quick carbohydrates. Pre-race meals and snacks should be high-carb, low-fiber, low-fat, and moderate in protein.
  • During a track meet, you want to time your high-carb snack for around 30-60 minutes before your event.
  • For quick bursts of energy, you may consider beta-alanine or creatine
  • Stay hydrated by drinking before, during, and after your events.
  • Avoid new foods until after your meet is done to avoid GI discomfort.

Other posts you may enjoy:

References:

  • Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance [published correction appears in J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017 Jan;117(1):146]. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116(3):501-528. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2015.12.006
  • Vitale K, Getzin A. Nutrition and Supplement Update for the Endurance Athlete: Review and Recommendations. Nutrients. 2019;11(6):1289. Published 2019 Jun 7. doi:10.3390/nu11061289
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