What to Eat Before Running a 5K: Your Ultimate Guide

What to eat before running a 5k

Preparing for a 5K involves more than just training your body to run the distance. You’ve got the running shoes, you’ve got the clothes and you’ve started training…what do you eat?

What you eat before running a 5K can significantly impact your performance, energy levels, and overall experience. Whether you’re gearing up for your first 5K marathon or you’re a seasoned runner looking to optimize your nutrition, understanding the best thing to eat before a run is crucial.

We will walk you through everything from the importance of pre-race nutrition to answering common questions like “should I eat before or after a 5K?” and “How many calories in a 5K run do I burn?”

Understanding Pre-Race Nutrition

Pre-race nutrition is all about balance.

Carbohydrates are your main fuel source, providing the energy needed to power through the race. Proteins play a supportive role, aiding in muscle repair and recovery, while fats should be consumed in moderation due to their slow digestion rate. Hydration, too, is a key component of your nutrition strategy, as even slight dehydration can impair performance.

Hydration Strategies

Start hydrating days before your 5k.


Aim for at least 200-500ml of water two hours before the race starts, adjusting based on weather conditions and personal sweat rate. Electrolytes are essential for longer races or hot days, helping to replace minerals lost through sweat. You can get these through food a specific electrolyte tablets, powders or drinks.

The Night Before: Dinner Preparation

The dinner before your race should be carbohydrate-rich and foods you know your body digests well.

Opt for easily digestible carbs and proteins like:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Chickpeas
  • Fish
  • Chicken

Avoid heavy, fatty foods that can slow digestion and disrupt your sleep.

Pre-5k Breakfast

With your pre-5km meal, timing is everything. Eat your pre-race meal about 1-3 hours before the race to ensure your food has time to digest.

Your calories should come from whole, unprocessed carbohydrates. Good options include oatmeal, whole grain toast with jam, or a banana with nut butter.

These foods provide a mix of slow and fast-release energy, keeping you fueled without weighing you down.

Try and avoid high fibres and fats as these take a long time to digest. You want to aim for around 200-300 calories with less than 10g of fibre per serving (less if you are known to have stomach issues) with a limit to 5-10g of fat.

If you have time, start to experiment with different foods and food groups to see what works with your body.

Effective Snacking Before the Gun Goes Off

Hungry before a 5k or race? If you’re wondering what to eat before a 5km race close to the start time, opt for a small, carb-rich snack like a banana, granola bar or salted crackers. Energy bars and chews are perfect for this. Remember, if you want to eliminate the hunger without filling up, wash this down with plenty of water or a sports drink.

Foods to Avoid Before Running 5K

Do not eat anything new! In the grand scheme of things, 5k is a relatively short distance. Stick to foods you know and steer clear of high-fiber, high-fat, and high-protein foods right before your race as these take a while to digest.

Hydration and Fluids Before the Race

Keep your water consumption topped up days before a run, typically you want to average around 2 litres of water a day while training, and continue to sip water leading up to the race start. Starting a race dehydrated can cause serious issues mid-run as it’s a lot harder to ‘catch-up’.

If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, sticking to your normal routine can prevent caffeine withdrawal symptoms, but avoid trying anything new on race day. If your not usually a coffee drinker, do not be tempted to have one for a caffeine boost before a race…coffee can have a laxative effect if you’re not used to it.

Post-Race Nutrition for Recovery

After crossing the finish line, focus on replenishing your energy stores and repairing muscles with a mix of carbohydrates and protein. A milk-based smoothie with whey protein or cheese and fruit can provide the necessary nutrients for recovery.

Remember to hydrate. Drink plenty of water after you run your 5k as your body is cooling down.

Your post-run meal needs to help your tired muscles and cell repair. High protein and healthy fats work wonders to aid this. Some meal personal favourites we have found and like to share:

  • Burrito bowl (beans, rice, avocado, chicken or beef)
  • Pasta with broccoli, chicken, garlic and parmesan cheese
  • Salmon, rice and veggies

Nutrition Tips for Training Days

Your diet during training days should support your energy needs and recovery. Incorporate a variety of nutrients, including carbs, proteins, and healthy fats, into your meals. Hydration is just as important on non-race days, so keep your fluid intake consistent.

Tailoring Your Diet to Your Needs

Everyone’s body reacts differently to foods, so it’s important to experiment during your training to find what works best for you. Pay attention to how different foods affect your energy and digestion, and adjust your diet accordingly.

Running a 5k common questions

Answering Common Questions

Should I Eat Before or After a 5K?

It’s best to do both. Eating a well-balanced meal or snack before your race provides the energy needed for the run, while post-race nutrition aids in recovery.

How Many Calories in a 5K Run Do I Burn?

The number of calories burned during a 5K run varies based on weight, pace, and individual metabolism. On average, runners burn about 100 calories per mile, making a 5K run approximately 300-500 calories burned.

What to Eat Before a Run?

The best thing to eat before a run is a combination of simple and complex carbohydrates with a little protein. This could be oatmeal with fruit, a banana with almond butter, or whole-grain toast with honey.

Best Thing to Eat Before a Run?

A meal that’s high in carbs, moderate in protein, and low in fat and fibre is ideal. This ensures you have enough energy without risking stomach discomfort.


Understanding what to eat before running a 5K is crucial for maximizing your performance and enjoying your race. By focusing on hydration, consuming the right balance of nutrients, and tailoring your diet to your personal needs, you can set yourself up for success.

Remember, every runner is different, so it’s important to experiment with your pre-race nutrition during training to find what works best for you. With the right fuel in your tank, you’ll be ready to tackle your 5K with energy and confidence.

Whether preparing for your first 5K marathon or looking to improve your race-day nutrition, following these guidelines will help you find the optimal balance of hydration and nourishment to support your running goals.

Your local running store will have plenty of race nutrition, usually ranging from powders and electrolyte tablets to chewy sweets and energy gels, so make sure to visit before your race.

Previous articleWhat is a good half-marathon time?
Next articleHow not to run a 5k: Common mistakes