Nutrition Tips for the Ventura half-marathon and 5K

When preparing for a race, runners can maximize their potential by choosing the right foods a few days before the race. One good meal the day before will not be the cure-all, but the food choices that runners make just before racing will affect the outcome.

Two days before the race, choose foods that you eat regularly so there are no surprises on race day, and I recommend eating home as much as possible to keep on top of your intake.

Add an extra complex carbohydrate to any or all of your meals, such as whole grain breads, a pasta salad, sweet potatoes, extra serving of rice, or a whole piece of fruit. Bananas, apples and pears are best. Because carbohydrates provide the body with energy and fuel, pre-race meals should have an abundance of them without overload. Don’t forget to have water at every meal!

Breakfast — eggs with vegetables are a great choice for the nutritional punch; in addition, toast, breakfast meats and orange juice are fine.

Lunch —Whole wheat tortilla wraps filled with rice, cheese and spinach and topped with salsa are great! Add some tuna, chicken or tofu, and you are good for the rest of the day!

Dinner — Baked chicken or fish, or eggs and tofu are great choices. For sides, I would do a brown rice and wild rice, steamed vegetables, corn on the cob, roasted sweet potato fries or pasta.

The Ventura half-marathon starts at 8 a.m. and the 5K at 8:15 a.m. Finish dinner no later than 9 p.m., and try to get to bed early.

Race morning  
You should wake up slightly hungry, and eat by 6 a.m. Good choices are oatmeal, light granola, yogurt, fresh fruit and a few hard boil eggs. One cup of coffee is fine.

Liquids — you should get most of your liquid from water. Many people load up on sports drinks, smoothies and juices. Keep in mind that these all add calories and you may feel fuller than you would like!  Prior to the race, if you are going to have sports drinks, make sure you get used to the drink your race is providing.

What foods and drinks to avoid before a half-marathon
Salt — I recommend not putting extra on your food, and replenishing during and after the run with sports drink and pretzels.

Water — Just sipping water when thirsty or at meal times will be sufficient to ensure that you stay hydrated for the race.

Caffeine — Refrain from caffeine at night. If you are accustomed to drinking caffeine in the morning, it is OK pre-race. If you don’t drink caffeine, do not start race morning!

Alcohol — I would refrain a few days before just to avoid any unnecessary dehydration and sluggishness that may occur race morning.

Post-race recovery nutrition
As tempting as it may seem, when you reach the finish line, do not stuff yourself with food.  Take a water and sports drink first. Keep walking around to let your heart rate come down and your legs relax a bit.  Then go back to the food tables where there are oranges, bananas and bagels.  Take a little bite of each at first, and then walk some more.

Completing a half-marathon does burn a lot of calories, but replacing those calories haphazardly will result in less recovery for your muscles and your stomach.  Easy on the food at the finish line, and save the victory treats for later that day after you have had time to rest.

The Ninth annual Ventura half-marathon and 5K takes place on Sunday, Feb. 13. Registration closing date is Friday, Feb. 11, at 11:59 p.m. For more information, go to

Health and wellness expert and best-selling author Patricia Greenberg has completed 11 marathons and 30 half-marathons. She is president of The Fitness Gourmet, an education consulting firm that specializes in teaching nutrition and fitness programs nationwide. For more information, Patricia is also running in the Ventura Marathon.