Nutrition Tips for Runners- Fuel Your Tank

Whitney Dagg is not only one of New Zealand’s top trail runners, she also knows how to eat. With a Bachelor of Applied Science in Sport and Exercise Nutrition and a Diploma in Human Nutrition, and a string of wins and course records to her name she is the perfect person to give some nutritional advice for your next backcountry running adventure!


Whitney during TNF100km in Australia

“Fuel Your Tank” is the first in a 3 part piece on nutrition. If you want more advice on your nutrition need you can contact Whitney , is part of the Exponential Performance Coaching team, directly- details below.

Pre- Fuel Your Tank

Breakfast on race day must be chosen wisely in order to adequately pre fuel your body for the intense session to come. The role of the pre event meal is to top up liver and muscle glycogen stores (energy stores).  It is common to feel nervous before a race; therefore choosing foods which do not upset your stomach can become very important. As your stomach gets moved around a lot while you are running, making sure that your pre-race meal is well settled is also important to consider.

Race Day Breakfast Criteria  Breakfast

  • High in carbohydrate
  • Low in fat
  • Moderate in protein
  • Provide adequate fluid
  • Low in fibre
  • Easily digested
  • Practiced in training (familiar)
  • 2-4 hours before your race

Carbohydrate: 1-4g/kg of body mass consumed 2-4 hours before the race start. For a 70kg athlete this is 70-280g of carbohydrate. Aiming for the upper end of the scale is much better, however if you struggle to tolerate a large quantity of food before your race, I would suggest having a smaller breakfast and then having a small snack 1 hour before your race.

Fat: slows down digestion and should be avoided completely before an event. It can also cause stomach upsets during the race. If your pre-race meal contains fat, make sure it is a very small quantity.

Protein: also slows down digestion of carbohydrate, therefore reducing the amount of energy stored in your muscles.  Protein is not used as an energy source for our muscles; however it is used to repair damaged tissue. Therefore, after the race is where protein plays its role.

Fluid: starting your race completely hydrated is important. Most athletes have a high sweat rate during a race due to the increased intensity, and despite drinking regularly, often become dehydrated as the race progresses. If you start dehydrated, then your performance is already compromised, adding to the inevitable performance loss from dehydration. Sipping away at a chilled bottle of sports drink as soon as you wake up, drinking at regular intervals before the race start is a great way to make sure you start fully hydrated.

Fibre: Avoiding too much fibre before your race can prevent bloating, diarrhoea and stomach discomfort. As with fat and protein, fibre is digested slowly, therefore is not a great option before your race. Foods high in fibre include wholegrain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, particularly with the skin on. Experiment with different foods before race day as tolerance is very individual.

Some Suggestions

  • Plain, low fibre breakfast cereal (rice bubbles, corn flakes) with low fat milk and fruit
  • Porridge with low fat milk, banana, and brown sugar
  • Creamed rice made with low fat milk served with tinned fruit
  • Spaghetti on white toast
  • White toast with honey and banana
  • Pancakes with maple syrup, honey or golden syrup

Read food labels to work out how much carbohydrate is contained in your pre-race meal. Always experiment in training first!

Whitney DaggExponential-Performance-Coaching-nz
Sports Nutrition Consultant
Exponential Performance Coaching

About BCR

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