How to eat for a 10km

There can be no doubt that food = food for powering physical activity, but are some foods worthier than others when it comes to pre-race eating? What’s more, how much should you eat – and when? These are some of the common questions from runners – sometimes even experienced ones – who are about to tackle a 10km. With a bit of knowledge and planning, you can eat your way to a successful, slow-energy release race, so that you can crush your targets this year.

Let’s start by breaking down some of the golden rules for pre-race eating.

Rule 1 – know your body

Just because Sally at the gym eats chocolate-coated protein bars before running doesn’t mean you should too! It’s important to know which foods agree with you and which don’t. Some runners can handle more protein before runs – which is useful for preventing injury whilst running – however many will struggle to digest this properly before they start running. Pay attention to what you eat before a run and how you feel, as well as the time lapse between a meal and exercise. You should generally leave about 3 hours before eating and running, however, inevitably, this will vary from person to person.

Rule 2 – prioritise carbohydrates, but don’t go crazy!

Carbohydrates are crucial for runners, as they top up your glycogen stores which powers your muscles. Carbs should make up roughly 60-65% of a runner’s diet – a percentage which you can apply to your pre-run meal. So, your plate should contain mostly carbs, with the rest split between fats and protein. Remember that you are not running a marathon; avoid overeating carbohydrates before a 10km, as this is not necessary and may make you feel sluggish.

FYI: You cannot top up your glycogen stores from one meal alone! You should eat a normal amount of carbohydrates (60-65% of diet for runners) in the lead up to the race.

Rule 3 – wake up hungry

Eating earlier in the evening promotes good sleep, which is important for running performance. Allow at least 3 hours between eating dinner and going to bed; you want to aim to wake up hungry on race day, so you know that your body is ready to take on more glycogen from your breakfast.

Speaking of breakfast, what’s the best morning fuel for your 10km? Whether you prefer sweet or savoury options, we’ve put together a carbohydrate-rich menu to supercharge your run.

Porridge and berries

Oats have more fibre and double the protein of cereals such as Cheerios. They are a slow energy-release food, allowing you to ‘go’ for longer. Top with berries for antioxidants and a small amount of nut butter for protein.

Two slices of toast with banana and honey

Opt for wholegrain bread for slow-release energy, keeping you fuller for longer.

French toast with Greek yoghurt and strawberries

Big appetite? This larger breakfast is sure to satisfy, and stop you reaching for those start-line jelly babies. Bananas are also high in electrolytes that are lost in sweat – such as potassium.

Low-fat bars or flapjacks

If you are not an early riser and prefer not to make breakfast, you can opt for a couple of breakfast bars or flapjacks. However, be careful that these bars are not packed with sugar and fat, as this can lead to sluggishness and energy crashes. Pair your breakfast bar with a piece of fruit, such as an orange, small banana or both – depending on your appetite.


Prepared for you by the Winter Run Team