Exactly What to Eat the Week Leading Up to a 10-K

September 1, 2015
Because your training plan is only part of how you perform on race day.

You've put in weeks' (or maybe even months') worth of training—but if you aren't eating right leading up to a 10-K, then you might be preventing yourself from getting the time you're aiming for. Prep for your best performance possible by following this eating plan I developed for the days prior to a race:

Choose enough carbohydrates to fuel your runs and make sure that your post-workout meal contains adequate amounts of protein and complex carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscles.

RELATED: 7 Things No One Ever Tells You About Running a Half-Marathon

Since this plan isn’t about weight gain or weight loss, feel free to add or decrease amounts based on what you need and how your body feels. This plan also coincides with active and rest days for the gradual carbohydrate loading build up. Here are more details on each meal and snack:

MONDAY

Breakfast
1 cup oatmeal cooked with 1 cup low-fat milk and topped with fresh berries, slivered almonds, and a drizzle of honey.

Snack
Blend together 1 cup pepita seeds, 1 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup almonds, and 1/2 cup of the dried fruit of your choice to nosh on throughout the week. 

Lunch
Veggie or turkey burger on a whole-grain bun with tomato, lettuce, and avocado slices. Serve with salad with spinach, 1/4 cup garbanzo beans, 1 oz crumbled feta, and 1-2 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette.

Snack
Greek yogurt with the fruit of your choice.

Dinner
Beef and broccoli stir-fry. Packed with iron, vitamin C, and protein, this is a great muscle-recovery meal.

Shutterstock

TUESDAY

Breakfast
Egg white frittata with spinach, feta, and mushrooms.

Snack
1 cup sliced vegetables with 2 Tbsp hummus dip.

Lunch
Turkey roll-ups: Spread 1/4 avocado on 1 whole-wheat tortilla, and top with sprouts, lettuce, shredded carrots, tomato slices, and 3 oz roasted turkey meat; then roll up. Serve with a 6-oz container of low-fat yogurt.

Snack
Banana-peanut butter smoothie: Blend 10 oz skim milk, 1 Tbsp peanut butter, and 1 medium banana.

Dinner
Millet pork fried rice.

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RELATED: Why Does Running Sometimes Give You the Runs?

WEDNESDAY

Today’s meal plan is lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein to get ready for the gradual carbo-loading that starts tomorrow.

Breakfast
Melon parfait: Layer 1 cup cubed melon with 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup of the seed-based trail mix from Monday. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp honey to sweeten.

Snack
Blueberry-peach smoothie: Blend 1 cup sliced peaches, 1/2 cup frozen raspberries, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, and 1 tsp honey (optional). 

Lunch
Turkey and quinoa salad jar.

Snack
Handful of the nut and seed mix from Monday.

Dinner
Bean and lentil chili with spinach side salad: Toss 2 handfuls of spinach with 1 Tbsp poppy seed dressing, 2 Tbsp thinly sliced red onions, and 1/4  cup drained mandarin orange segments.

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THURSDAY

Breakfast
Muesli

Snack
1 cup mixed berries.

Lunch
Toast topped with avocado, tomato, and white beans: Smash together 1/2 cup canned white beans with 1 finely minced garlic clove, 2 Tbsp minced fresh basil, and 1 1/2 tsp olive oil until creamy. Smear onto toast, and top with sliced tomatoes and fresh avocado. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

This meatless sandwich is a balanced choice of healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates.

Snack
1 red pepper, sliced into strips with 2 Tbsp hummus.

Dinner
Black bean and cheese burrito with whole-grain tortilla: Stuff a whole-grain tortilla with black beans sautéed with onions, garlic, and a dash of chili powder. Stir in 2 handfuls spinach until wilted. Top with a handful of shredded cheese, and roll up into a burrito.

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RELATED: How Your Period Affects Your Runs

FRIDAY

Breakfast
1 cup cooked oatmeal with 2 Tbsp slivered almonds and 2 Tbsp dried cherries.

Snack
Peach smoothie: Blend 1 peach, 1/2 cup frozen raspberries, and 1-2 cups skim milk.

Lunch
Grilled chicken and pineapple sandwich.

Snack
1 banana with 1 Tbsp almond butter.

Dinner
1 serving tofu pad thai.

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SATURDAY
This day is filled with easy-to-digest carbohydrates to prevent bloating or other G.I. concerns for tomorrow.

Breakfast
Red and green smoothie: Blend together 1 cup spinach leaves, 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 Tbsp almond butter, 1/2 frozen banana, and unsweetened almond milk or low-fat milk. 

Snack
Blueberry smoothie: Blend 1/2 cup unsweetened frozen berries, 1/2 banana, 1 cup skim milk, 1/2 cup nonfat yogurt, and 1/2 cup ice cubes until creamy and smooth.

Lunch
Italian BLT sandwich with turkey bacon.

Snack
Handful of the nut and seed mix from Monday.

Dinner
Chicken, veggie, and rice stir-fry: Stir-fry veggies of choice and chicken in store-bought teriyaki sauce. Serve with brown rice. 

Shutterstock

SUNDAY
Race day!

Breakfast
Pre-workout meal of choice. Remember to choose items that you’ve trained with and know work for you to avoid issues while you're running.

Post-Run Snack
Fruit smoothie made with yogurt: Blend 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 cup frozen blueberries, 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, and milk of choice for a frosty protein- and carbohydrate-packed smoothie that's perfect for post-race recovery.

Lunch
Meal of choice.

Dinner
Meal of choice.

My Top Pre-Race Food Tips

Train with Your Food
The night and morning before a race are not the time to add new foods to your diet. Since G.I. issues are the top complaint of endurance athletes, its good to know how certain foods will affect you before you head out. During training, experiment with a variety of meal options before your runs to gauge which foods your stomach handles best. Popular pre-race morning items include peanut butter on toast, oatmeal, cereal, smoothie, or a bagel.

RELATED: 10 Healthy Breakfast Recipes

Fiber Is Not Your Friend
There are a few instances where it’s better to go for the white bread option over the wheat, race day being one of them. Having too much fiber before a long run can lead to cramping and frequent porta potty pit stops, two things that you don’t want to happen during a race. I suggest enjoying lower-fiber, easier-to-digest carbohydrates starting the day before the race just in case.

Don't Go Overboard on the Pasta
While you may know that carbohydrates are your best choice to fuel with, it’s easy to get carried away with the bread and pasta. Overeating, especially on carbs, can make you feel sluggish and bloated. Go with a standard one- to two-cup portion size, and then reassess if you’re still hungry. It’s better to have more frequent feedings leading up to the race then one giant carb-heavy meal.

RELATED: The 9 Must-Know Rules of Carbo-Loading

Goldilocks Your Water Intake
Finding the just right amount of water intake can be a daunting process. While being properly hydrated is critical to race success, too much can lead to bloating, electrolyte imbalance, and cramping. The easiest and best way to assess your water intake is taking a peek at the color of your urine and noting how frequently you go. If you find yourself running to the bathroom often and your urine is very light or clear in color, you may be overhydrating. The opposite is also true: Infrequent bathroom trips and darker-colored urine is a good sign you need to up your water intake.

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