Nutrition planning for most races may conjure up images of pasta buffets or bagel stations. The short duration of a 5k does not require such a substantial carbohydrate overload. You can create a sensible routine to complement your performance by focusing on a few key nutritional practices.
Hydration is the most critical piece of your 5k nutrition program. This would be true regardless of the distance you plan to travel. Your muscles are approximately 75 percent water, and aerobic performance can begin to suffer with just a 2-percent decrease in the amount of water in your body. Hydrate two hours before the race by drinking 16 to 20 ounces of water or sports drink and then another 8 to 12 ounces of fluid 15 minutes before the race.
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Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for your muscles in these short races, especially those that last less than 30 minutes. Feature carbohydrate-rich foods as part of your prerace snack or meal. Try to consume at least 50 to 75 grams of carbohydrates at that time. A bagel with a small amount of peanut butter, a bowl of cereal with low-fat milk and a banana with toast and honey are well-tolerated food choices that meet that carbohydrate goal.
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Because of the varied race schedules, emphasize portability in your race-day food selections. If you are just getting out of bed and have little or no time for a complete meal, know that 5k races do not require much fuel. Foods such as granola bars, dates, bananas, apples, gels or sports drinks are quick and easy options that you can pack in a bag and eat before races instead of skipping food altogether.
Proper timing of your meals and snacks is an important factor to consider in nutrition planning. Try to give yourself at least two hours after eating before you hit the course. You can also use these shorter events to gauge what your body can handle in terms of eating and drinking while you are on the move so that you can be better prepared if you decide to increase your distance for future events.
- Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professional; Christine Rosenbloom
- American College of Sports Medicine: Hydration Guidelines
Jonathan Vredenburg is a registered dietitian and an ACSM credentialed health/fitness specialist. He is also a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics. Vredenburg's articles have been featured in "Healthsource Magazine," "First Coast Magazine," "Mature Matters" and "SOBeFiT Magazine."