5K (3.1 miles) is a popular running distance for training, events and competition. 5K is short enough for runners all levels to access but long enough to be challenging. Amateurs, marathoners, fun runners and professionals alike, can run a 5K. Weekly events from parkrun and Sweatshop have made 5ks more popular than ever.
Whatever your reason for running, you’re going to want to perform at your best. Something that’s going to set the scene for a great, enjoyable 5K is going to be the food you eat beforehand.
What should you eat before a 5K?
ALWAYS eat something before a 5K
‘I don’t eat before I run’, is what a lot might say, but the risks of not eating are high. Would you drive a car you knew had little to no fuel inside it, practically running on fumes? Or use a laptop with 5% charge to submit work for a deadline, or give an important presentation? No, because both are likely to perform poorly and risk switching off. Don’t put yourself into a 5K without fuel.
Eat something, even if you’re not hungry.
When should I eat?
Everyone has different digestive systems, so there is no one size fits all system here. A general rule of thumb is to eat 45 minutes to 1 hour before performing. Short enough to get the quick hit of fuel from the food (nutrients, sugar) for the race, long enough so digestion has started, and your snack won’t make an unwelcome reappearance during or after the race. I’ve seen this happen before, not pretty.
What should I eat?
Carbohydrates are your go-to pre-run fuel source. They raise blood sugar and glycogen levels, so your muscles can function properly during the demanding 5K. I recommended carbohydrates for training and just before a run. Post-run, fats and protein are the fuel sources I recommend for muscle recovery and a sustainable energy source.
What are the best, most convenient foods to eat before a 5K?
A runners classic pre-run snack. The banana is a healthy, carbohydrate-rich fruit which can be consumed anywhere. All you need to do is peel it, and you’re done. A nutritious banana is ready to eat.
Health benefits: Rich in muscle cramp reducing potassium, high fibre content promotes healthy bowels, abundant in tryptophan promoting good mood, lots of iron for blood production.
2) Peanut butter or jam on wholegrain toast
A quick, tasty snack made with ease. Peanut butter offers a good hit of protein and monounsaturated fats. The body will enjoy these in the run. If your allergic to nuts use jam, marmalade or honey.
Wholegrain bread is relatively natural and unprocessed (when compared to white alternatives) containing lots of grain and seeds. This means you get maximum nutrients, vitamins and minerals, giving you the best fuel for the 5K.
3) Energy Bar or Gel
Energy bars and gels. The ultimate convenience food for a runner. Scientifically formulated with a good blend of carbs, fat and protein packed neatly in a bar or sachet. Their small size makes them easily transportable and accessible when and wherever you are. Walking, on public transport, in the car. They’re runner-friendly and ideal for a great 5K.
Energy bars and gels come in every flavour under the sun. Strawberry, blueberry, fudge, coffee, banana, orange, chocolate, blackcurrant, lime. Whoever you are, there’s an energy bar or gel to please you.
Health Benefits: Vitamins and minerals include vitamin B-12 (maintains energy), calcium (strong bones and muscles), iron, vitamin D (immune system).
Carbohydrates: Depends on the manufacturer, usually 25-50g
For more information on energy gels, check out the following blog post:
4) Greek yogurt and berries
Easy on the stomach, tastes so good it’ll put a smile on your face, quick to whip up, Greek yogurt and berries are a match made in heaven for a 5K runner.
Try a 3/5 cup of yoghurt, mixed with 1/2 cup of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, and you have your ideal 5K cocktail.
The yoghurt delivers a healthy dose of protein, whilst the berries inject vibrant sugars and carbohydrates. Just what you need for the 5K. If it’s sunny, enjoy this one outdoors.
Health Benefits: Vitamin B12, potassium and sodium (muscle function), iodine (metabolism regulation), calcium, antioxidants, fibre.
5) Porridge and Almonds
Goldilocks liked her porridge for a reason. This starchy, oat-based treat offers a good helping of carbs and can be made quickly. Mix some semi-skimmed milk with the porridge oats, stick it in the microwave for a minute, take it out. Enjoy.
Add a handful of almonds for some healthy fats and protein. If you have a sweet tooth, add a teaspoon of honey. You now have a convenient, great tasting snack to help you run your best 5K.
Note: Calories and carbohydrate figures are approximations. These amounts depend on the brand you purchase and the portion size right for you.