How to fuel your 10k
What to eat and drink before a 10k race
Compared to a marathon, the 10k is not usually a race where you would have to think too much about fuelling and refuelling strategies. Having said that though it is important to eat well the night before the race and to hydrate properly on the morning of the race to make sure you’re properly prepared.
Written by Scott Overall
Scott is a British long distance athlete who represented Team GB at the 2012 Olympics. His marathon PB is currently 2:10:55.
If you’re going to be running the distance in under 60 minutes you would generally expect to have enough carbohydrate stored in your system (provided you have eaten a decent meal the night before) to get you round the race. However if you’re going to be running for over an hour then it might be worth taking something on board during the race such as an energy gel or sports drink. Having said this, in order to get your best performance you should look to make sure your carbohydrate levels are topped up before the start as this is going to be your main source of energy. Unlike the marathon you’re not going to run out of fuel during the race and what you have eaten before the race will be enough to get you through it.
What to eat as a pre-race meal
Some good things to eat before the race funnily enough are items that actually taste good! Porridge topped with jam, sugar, or a banana, along with toast with jam and a glass of orange juice will also help increase the consumption of carbohydrates. The most important thing to consider is when you actually have this meal and this is something you should have been practicing during your training. It’s so important to work out how much the time you need to leave between finishing your meal and setting off on a run. The recommended time is about 2-3 hours but everyone is different which is why you need to practice.
Sipping on a sports drink will also help your performance as it will mean you are hydrated at the start. It’s a good idea to have a drink that includes sodium because your body will retain more of the liquid and therefore hydrate you better. This will make sure your glycogen levels are really topped up and you'll be ready to aim for that PB.
Caffeine intake before a race
If you’ve run a few 10k races in the past and you’re looking for that extra edge, then experimenting with caffeine before the race is the next stage in the fuelling side of the equation. The amount of caffeine you have before the race would really depend on how much of a coffee drinker you are in general. If you're like me and don't drink coffee normally, then having a couple of caffeine pills or a cup of coffee before the race will be plenty.
There has been plenty of research to prove that caffeine can help performance, as it makes you more alert and more likely to have a better performance. However again this is something you really need to have tried and testing in training. It is definitely NOT something that should be done for the first time on race day. Caffeine can cause problems with your stomach when running and if you haven’t tried it before, you won't know how it’s going to affect you. It will also make you more dehydrated so you'll need to drink more fluid to counteract that before the start.
Post race refuelling
After the race you'll need to replenish your stores and a good way to do this is to get some protein inside you. Having a protein shake already made up in your kit bag is a great way to make sure you get something on board quickly. You never know what is going to be on offer at these races so you are always better off taking your own food and drink.
It may take you a few attempts at the pre-race fuelling strategy before nailing it but as long as you learn from your mistakes you'll eventually have the perfect race. You can change the times at which you eat your main meal, and also the amount of fluid you take on before the race. Some people like to keep sipping a sports drink right up to 10 minutes before the start time, while others might need a full hour! Just work out what is best for you and go with it. Good luck, and go get that PB!