Race-Day Nutrition: Fueling for Your Race on a Budget

Don't bonk during your next race. Learn about some great budget-friendly race-day nutrition options from STACK Expert Kait Fortunato.

Race Day Nutrition

After running my first half-marathon, I reflected on a huge beginner's mistake. Lacking proper race-day nutrition, I "hit the wall" during the last couple of miles.

You know those bonking symptoms you get when you run out of fuel—fatigue, nausea and the feeling that you cannot possibly run one more step? I do, and I never want to feel them again.

During my next training season, I stepped up my game and learned how to properly fuel, not only before and after workouts, but also for long runs and race days as well.

I didn't go for the commercialized fuel that's on the market: shot blocks, sports beans, gels and sports drinks. Though these are all plausible options, they are often expensive and not much different from real-food options.

Running can be a costly sport when you consider the money you spend on race entry fees, travel, sneakers and gear. So any way I can save money is fine with me.

Here are some of my favorite budget-friendly race-day nutrition options:

  • Fig Newtons: Easy to chew, they provide adequate sugar but aren't too high in fiber. The whole package costs about $3.68, or only 28 cents per serving (13 in a package!).
  • Swedish Fish: Comparable to shot blocks and sports beans, these high-sugar candies taste good and are easy to carry with you during a race. A 14-ounce bag with 10 servings runs around $4.29, or about 43 cents per serving.
  • Pretzels: These make a great snack for workouts because they are high in carbohydrates with the added benefit of salt to replace electrolytes. Pretzels are especially good if you sweat a lot. A one-pound bag costing $2.98 will last through multiple races and provide leftovers for snacks during the week.
  • Homemade Bars or Energy Bites: If you prefer a more complete fuel, with protein and healthy fats, homemade bars or energy bites can be a great budget-friendly solution. Here are some great options that come in at only 50 cents per serving.

Whatever option you choose, make sure to practice your fueling plan before the big day. A registered dietitian can help you formulate a personalized calorie and carbohydrate plan that includes foods you like and easily tolerate.

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