I love to eat. That is no secret, but really, what runner doesn’t? Food is fuel for our training and races, helps us recover efficiently, and keeps us healthy. Some foods are just better than others before embarking on a long training run or before a big race. Obviously, I am not a dietician or expert, just a runner who has had more “issues” on group runs and races than I care to admit. So like that 3rd tequila shot last night, these are just a bad idea before a run. Sugar-free Candy: The alcohols in sugar-free candy can cause serious bloat and GI upset. Most healthy people should be fine eating a piece or two, but if you are like me and are compelled to eat an entire bag of gummy bears in one sitting, stick with the sugar filled. The day before my first full marathon, I accidentally picked up sugar free gummy bears for the car ride and ended up looking pregnant with bloating and feeling awful. Luckily I was better in the morning, but having a bad night before 26.2 miles is not good for one’s mental health. Spicy Foods: Holy heartburn. The night before a race is not the time to try the “Thai hot” Panang curry or the “911” chicken wings. Unless you have a stomach of iron, stick with more mild foods pre run. Or invest in mass amounts of Tums and Prilosec. Ice Cream/Yogurt/Dairy: Ugh. Just the thought of running after eating yogurt makes me queasy. High fat and dairy foods can cause cramps, gas, and diarrhea. Obviously if you are at all lactose intolerant, you want to avoid these foods at all costs before running. High Protein Shakes/Bars: Protein is a critical part of any runner’s diet and important for healthy recovery after hard workouts. High protein bars and shakes are not the best pre-run nutrition. Because the protein takes longer to digest and become available as energy, you may end up feeling sluggish. Ideally, you want the combination of carbs and protein. Peanuts/Trail Mix: Nuts of any sort are a bad idea directly before running. They are high in protein, which takes longer to digest than other foods. This is not a good thing if you are about to head out on a long run. Don’t get me wrong, I love some peanut butter and toast pre-run, but give yourself at least an hour or two before heading out. Before the Wine & Dine Half Marathon in Disney I got hungry (read: starving) about an hour before the race. Other than my energy gels, the only option was roasted peanuts from a concession stand. I took the peanuts and spent two hours running and burping peanuts. Not ideal. Bottom line, great healthy snack, not running food. Beans/Legumes: If you are a vegetarian/vegan and your body is used to a high fiber diet, a heaping plate of rice and beans is fine the night before a long run. If you are not, you may want to avoid that big bean burrito. Legumes can cause uncomfortable bloating, GI distress, and gas. All things that will make a long run seem much longer. Raw Veggies: Same risk as beans. I am a vegetarian and I still wouldn’t risk eating a bunch of raw broccoli or cauliflower the night before a race or long training run. So much fiber! It goes without saying, anything that can potentially cause bloating, nausea, or diarrhea probably isn’t a good idea. Especially if a port-o-potty is your only option for miles. High Fiber Granola Bars: For the past few years I have played around with various pre-run “bars.” There are a number of good ones, my favorites being Oatmeal-raisin-walnut Cliff Bars, Chocolate-peanut butter Zone Bars, and PowerBar Harvest Energy Bar. I have had some mishaps in my experimentations. A few months ago I tried a Gnu Flavor & Fiber Bar before a 10 mile run. I even saw the “48% of your daily fiber” on the wrapper, but ignored the warning. Needless to say, this is why I know where every public bathroom in downtown Naples is located. Great taste, poor decision. Lesson Learned. Nothing: If you are planning on racing or running more than an hour, do NOT skip a small meal beforehand. Dehydration and poor nutrition will slow you down. A good combination of simple carbohydrates and protein is ideal an hour or two before your race or at run time. There is no way to re-fuel during a workout to make up for the missed breakfast or meal before hand. I generally hate eating super early in the morning, but getting something down makes all the difference during the run. Anything New: The night before a big race or really long run is not the time to experiment with foods. Stick with something tried and true and you will be much happier. (Not to mention less apprehensive on the big day!) The best thing to do is experiment during your training, find out what works for you, and stick with it! Happy running!