With spring finally here, the beginning of race season is officially upon us. Over the next four months, millions of people will hit the streets for what could be their first or 50th race. Regardless of a runner's experience level, figuring out a pre-race diet is always a bit of a guessing game. The best suggestion is to take what you know about yourself and integrate some knowledge from more experienced runners. Or, even better, experienced runners who also love to eat. Here's what seven running-crazed chefs eat leading up to and on race day.
Chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and television personality Richard Blais likes to eat lots of whole grain pastas and lean proteins leading up to race day, but it's his secret source for fuel that sets his routine apart. "My secret trick is consuming a lot of beet juice—beets are packed with dietary nitrates, which increase blood flow to your muscles during exercise and in turn, enhance your performance," he says. On race day, though, Blais keeps it a little more traditional. "On the morning of the race, my typical routine is a banana, a half of a bagel with peanut butter, a small coffee and a water. Make sure to hydrate the day before and early enough in the morning so you don't need bathroom stops during the race!"
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Executive chef and restauranteur Tim Love is an avid runner and has completed a number of half marathons, full marathons and 10-ks across the country. Love likes to keep his pre-race meal especially simple and limits himself to peanut butter toast and beet juice with ginger, pineapple, and jalapeño before heading off to that morning's event.
Gregory Gourdet, Director of Culinary Operations at Departure Restaurants, is currently training for a century run, aka a 100-mile race. While Gourdet started doing long distance trail running seven years ago, this is certainly his longest race yet. As such, he adheres to a very specific diet in preparation for these especially long training runs. "Seasonal root vegetables like beets, carrots and sweet potatoes take center plate when I'm carbo-loading, two days out from a race," he says. "I also use fat as fuel and snack on nuts and seeds like hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds for healthy fat build-up." On race day, Gourdet usually eats a mix of protein, fats and carbs before the race begins. "I love a simple, olive oil fried egg sandwich or a nut butter and jelly sandwich," he explains. "Sunflower seed butter and strawberry jam are my go tos. On the way to the race, I snack on dates and hydrate with coconut water."
Nate Appleman, VP of Fast Casual Restaurants at OTG and an F&W Best New Chef, has completed four marathons and has subsequently lost more than 80 lbs. since taking up running. Appleman's routine leading up to race day is pretty straightforward. "The night before, I keep it simple and well balanced with proteins and whole grains," he says. "Also, I avoid shellfish and anything spicy for obvious reasons. Then, the morning of I'll have some banana yogurt and oatmeal and coffee." Additionally, Appleman stays away from the Gu packets that many runners swear by. "I never eat those weird gels or supplements," he explains. "I like to keep it real."
Bobby Stuckey, master sommelier and co-founder of Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine, is a seasoned marathoner and former professional cyclist. While Stuckey takes his training regiment very seriously, he usually enjoys a nice dinner out with his wife the night before race day. The day of, however, is a different story. Just like he would the morning before a big workout, Stuckey sticks to granola, water, and two espressos to power him through. If need be, he'll also go through a few chocolate Gu packets fortified with caffeine for an extra boost.
Celebrated restauranteur and wine maker Joe Bastianich doubles down on his love of Italian food on race day, giving him the all important fats and carbohydrates that he needs during events. "I generally have something like a bowl of Arborio rice sweetened with a little honey before I leave the house, or a bagel with peanut butter," he tells Mic. "A few hours later I snack on something with protein like almonds and grana [cheese]."
Chef, cookbook author and television personality Marcus Samuelsson ran his first marathon in 2015 and, to no one's surprise, food was a major part of the chef's training plan. According to the New York Times, Samuelsson ate protein-rich Ethiopian Injera bread and sauce-free chickpeas and lentils the night before his big race.