Fueling the Fourth of July

Whether you're seasoned athlete or a weekend enthusiast, fueling is key to feeling well during and after an event, as well as avoiding heat related issues.

Are you participating in the Peachtree Road Race or another event? Training is critical to comfortably finish the race with minimal risk of injury. However fuel, e.g. nutrition, is a vital piece of training. Now is the time to stock up on energy, not calories, and hydrate to optimize your event.  Fueling effectively pre race and re-fueling post race can have a profound impact on comfort, performance, and avoiding heat related problems.

Pre-Race Fuel Up

  •  Often, the pre-event meal is best tolerated 2 nights before an event to aid digestion and decrease GI disturbances.
  •  Choose plenty of bread, rice, pasta, fruits, yogurt, potatoes, vegetables and juice with meals. Choose lower fiber options race day (& possibly the day before).  Fill 2/3 of your plate with these high energy/fuel choices
  •  The typical American diet contains plenty of protein-focus on plenty of optimal carbohydrates (carbs)
  •  Choose lean protein such as lean beef, turkey, seafood, nuts, milk, yogurt, soy or eggs.
  •  Examples:
    •  Pasta, rice or potato as the center of your meal with lean protein and veggies as “sides”
    •  Sandwiches with turkey, chicken, roast beef vs. mayo based salads
    •  Single burger vs. deluxe burger, 2 if one isn’t enough
    •  Grilled chicken sandwiches or salads vs. fried chicken
    •  Grilled and baked vs. fried> protein and sides
    •  Thick crust pizza with veggies, Canadian bacon, chicken, etc. vs. sausage, pepperoni, meat lovers.
    •  Choose fresh fruits, yogurt, fresh veggies as sides instead of fried or fat laden sides. 

Race Day Top Off!

  •  Top off your “tank” with breakfast to boost your glycogen=energy
  •  Use liquid meal replacements such as Carnation Instant Breakfast, Ensure, or Similar IF you feel overly nervous race day.
  •  Choose low fiber foods to aid digestion and decrease GI disturbances before & during the race
  •  Choose a little protein 
  •  Choose familiar foods and fluids
  •  Examples, depending on time to race start:
    •  Breakfast sandwich on bread or english muffin or small bagel or wrap
    •  Cheerios, banana or raisins and low-fat milk 
    •  Grits and egg with 1-2 slices toast & jelly
    •  Baby carrots in hummus
    •  Grapes and string cheese
    •  Banana dipped in P.B.
    •  Homemade smoothie
    •  Cereal bar, fruit, and yogurt
    •  Large juice or sports beverage with all if this is an endurance race

The Day Before the Race


1 cup juice

1 ½ c bran flakes

1 c fresh berries

1 c skim/1% milk

2 slices toast

1 TBSP jelly


2 slices whole wheat bread

3 oz turkey breast


8 oz white grape juice

8 oz low-fat yogurt


8 oz skim/1% milk

6 fruit Newtons


3 cups spaghetti

1 cup tomato sauce

2 oz lean ground turkey/beef/meat substitute

2 slices Italian bread without butter

 Energy and Hydration During the Race 

  • Weigh yourself before the race
  • Choose a combination of water, sports drink, diluted juices
  • Water alone can lead to hyponatremia in a race lasting over an hour- which is very dangerous- choose some sports drinks or skip every other station
  • Drink 16 – 20 oz 2 hours before race
  • Drink 6 – 10 oz 10- 20 minutes before race start
  • Drink 5 – 10 oz every 15 – 20 minutes during the race
  • Choose sports drink at least every other stop to add electrolytes and carbs
  • If you’re slow-you may only need every other “water” station
  • Weigh yourself after the race
  • Drink 24 oz of fluid for every pound lost- this is not “real” weight loss, but low hydration
  • As little as 2 percent loss of Body weight (3 pounds for 150 pound athlete) diminishes performance> for some that’s the difference of winning or not placing
  • Check your urine
    • Lemonade color is good hydration
    • Apple juice color is dehydration
  • Utilize familiar drinks, gels, and bars to aid energy and hydration & avoid GI distress
  • Combine jelly beans, candy corn, M & M’s or chocolate covered espresso beans (instead of gels!)
  • Fruit / fig Newton’s, Raisins or dried fruit (instead of gels!)

Congratulations!  Now Replenish!

The first 30 min. 

Eat a snack such as a

  • banana and peanut butter
  • chocolate or other flavored milk
  • homemade fruit smoothie with skim milk (or fat free soy milk) and fruits
  • fruit and yogurt or a bagel with jelly
  • Continue to re-hydrate

Within 2 hours of finish

  • Eat a high-carb meal with some protein such as: PB&J sandwich
  • Large mixed veggie salad with dried fruit and nuts or beans + Snack/Granola bar + Fluids
  • Grilled chicken + Pretzels + Sports drink
  • Turkey sandwich with lettuce & tomato + Banana + skim or 1% Milk
  • Drink 3 cups of fluid for every pound lost in sweat
  • Continue to re-hydrate


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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