Whether you are new to running or a veteran, all runners need to focus on their nutrition just as much as they do on their running times and distance. What runners put into their bodies will determine how prepared they are for their upcoming races. So how exactly should a runner fuel their body?

Hydration is absolutely key before and during races. The night before a race, it’s best to start hydrating yourself more than you would on an average day. You should continue drinking as much water as you can stomach before the race. During the race, runners will likely not need to drink too much for the first leg of the race. After that point, small sips of water throughout the race will keep you hydrated without getting over-hydrated.

What you eat before, during, and after a race is also critical for a successful run. It’s best to get a good breakfast in about two hours before the race. This allows your body to have enough fuel to run without upsetting your stomach during the actual race itself. Consuming nut butter or a healthy granola bar in small bites during the race is usually enough to fuel an athlete without causing stomach cramps. It is best to avoid sugary foods and caffeine until the last leg of the race when these foods will help you make it to the finish line. After the race is over, it is always a good idea to consume a large amount of protein (about 20 grams). This will help speed up your recovery and prepare you for the next race.

Maintaining a healthy diet at all times whether it is the day before the race or the month before will help with your training as well. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, as well as protein and some healthy carbs will help runners as they train their muscles for race day. Eating to run is more than simply eating right on race day.

Like any other sport, becoming a practiced runner is not just about putting the time into training muscles. The food and water you put in your body throughout your training and during your race can determine your success. Being sure to stay hydrated right before a race, eating the right snacks during the run, and making sure you eat enough protein after your race will ensure that race day goes off without a hitch.