Getting a good start to your next trail running race may come down to something as simple as what you had for your race day breakfast. Even if your trail race has an early morning start, getting a good race day breakfast routine down to a fine art can make a big difference to your performance in the race, whether it’s a 10k, half-marathon, marathon or ultramarathon.
As plant-based runners, we prefer to focus on simple, plant-based food for our race-day breakfast – which is the same as what we normally eat before our long training runs.
The food you choose to eat before and during a trail run is important from a nutritional perspective – and you also may be limited on choice, depending on where you are staying, the night before a long trail run or race, for example.
What does a good race day breakfast need to deliver?
As all endurance runners know, what you ate in the hours leading up to a long run or race can really affect your performance – it can help fuel some great running, or it can be at the other end of the spectrum and cause stomach discomfort and issues that could end your race prematurely – so a good race day breakfast is – needless to say – very important.
A good pre-race breakfast should:
- Provide slow-release energy (no huge sugar-driven energy spikes and lulls)
- Not be too heavy on the stomach (and not sloshing around)
- Be simple (and fairly bland)
Consider the practicalities…What breakfast options and facilities will you have access to on race morning?
Many races start early in the morning, or require an early start in order to travel to the start line on time. For the majority of people, traveling to races the night before and staying locally the night before your race may mean that you don’t have access to the food and kitchen facilities that you would have at home. This means you should consider coming up with a plan for your race day breakfast that involves food that you can easily access and eat early in the morning – and this may mean taking your own food and coffee with you to have in your guesthouse or hotel room before the race.
Personally, I want to eat my race day breakfast at least two hours before the race start, so this needs planning into my race-morning routine. If a race starts at 7, or even 8am, the chances are that breakfast in my hotel (or cafes near the hotel) won’t be available if I want to start eating around 5 or 6 in the morning!
So, in summary, consider whether your accommodation the night before will enable you to have breakfast at the time you need to in the morning.
Are you at home or in a self-catering accommodation the night before the race, or are you in a hotel or B&B with limited/no breakfast options at the time you need to eat?
Reduce race morning stress – limit scope for decision-making by working out before race day, what you are going to have for your race day breakfast.
I find a great way to focus myself on what is important, is to reduce the number of decisions I need to make. This applies to the morning of a race day – I avoid giving myself choices, which expose me to the need to make decisions – which I may stress over, no matter how insignificant!
Therefore, by keeping breakfast choices really simple and limited, it’s one less thing to think about – and I can focus on remembering to take the right kit with me, and working out how to get to the start line on time.
With all that in mind…. depending on the time I need to eat, and where I can easily access kitchen facilities / a breakfast in a hotel, I’ll eat one of the following options…
Coffee (ideally French press) + porridge
Coffee (ideally French press) + wholewheat or sourdough toast, with nut butter (eg almond butter).
A whole or half banana
Coffee is always involved. Why? Because I like it, and it’s probably early in the morning!
Also because a nice cup of French press coffee is enough liquid to wake your body up – you really ought to go to the toilet before getting to the start line and facing hours without access to suitable facilities (not to mention, taking up valuable race time if you do need to go mid-race).
Even if you aren’t a big fan of coffee, it can pay on race day to have a cup well before the race for this reason.
Porridge / Oatmeal for Breakfast
I’m not the biggest fan of porridge. It can be a bit heavy if you eat too much… but then it is very filling, and top class slow-release energy food, which you need for a long day of endurance activity. So if I eat the right amount, I know I’ll have plenty of energy that day. If you want, you can also throw in some nice fruit, like banana slices and/or raisins, which will give an extra energy and nutritional boost.
Another great advantage of porridge is that you can make it using a kettle and a spoon.
If you’re in a hotel or B&B with nothing but a kettle, mug and spoon, then the hands-down best option for breakfast is a coffee and a pot of porridge.
I’m still working my way around trying the various brands of instant porridge-in-a-pots, but one that I know works for me is MOMA’s golden syrup porridge. You don’t need a bowl, just top up with hot water, like a Pot Noodle, and – voila – a wholesome breakfast to go with your coffee.
Toast and Nut Butter
While not quite as long-lasting on the energy side as porridge, I know two or three slices of good quality bread, toasted, with almond butter (and maybe a splash of honey) will make a good breakfast. However you need to have access to a toaster and fridge in order to be able to make it.
The Breakfast of Champions: A Banana
If you end up having breakfast a long time before your run actually starts, you can also do worse than have a whole or half banana around 20 minutes before the start time.
Call for comments!
We’d love to hear your simple race-morning breakfast tips – are you a porridge fan, or do you have another great go-to option?
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