Diet tips when training for the City2Surf

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

If you’re training for the City2Surf or even if you’re just a regular runner following these top diet tips will help you maximise your performance on the big day.


When you’re training for a run you should include healthy carbohydrates like breads, cereals, grains, rice, pasta, fruit, potatoes, milk and yoghurt in your diet to supply energy to fuel your muscles.

How much you eat may vary depending on the intensity of your training i.e. you will need to eat more when training is longer or harder.

Include moderate amounts of lean protein like fish, lean beef, skinless chicken, eggs, legumes and tofu. This will aid with muscle recovery. Also add small amounts of healthy fats such as those found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and monounsaturated oils.

Don’t forget to eat fresh fruit and vegetables to ensure you’re getting an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals to support training.

Running leads to fluid loss via sweating. Dehydration can impair exercise performance and lead to generalised feelings of fatigue.

Consider your daily fluid needs and cover fluids lost from training, particularly in warm weather or during long training sessions. Checking your urine is a pale yellow colour is an easy way to ensure you are well hydrated.

It is also good idea to practice your ‘pre-event’ meal a few times before the big day.

Eating before the event

The lead up week: In the week leading up to the big day consider reducing your training one to five days prior to the event, while keeping your carbohydrate intake similar to training levels. This will provide a ‘loading’ effect whereby your rested muscles become super-saturated in glucose ready for race day.

The day before the event: Avoid strenuous activity the day prior to the event and aim to consume familiar, well tolerated foods and fluids. Your food intake should remain at normal training levels and include quality carbohydrates.

Avoid consuming much larger meals than normal the day before as this can leave you feeling sluggish, heavy and uncomfortable in the gut. Foods higher in fat, protein and fibre tend to take longer to digest so on the night before the race have a light low fat meal with a moderate amount of fibre. this might include white bread, rice, or pasta with grilled / steamed fish, a small portion of skinless chicken or lean beef and a green salad.

Aim to go to bed with pale yellow urine, but don’t overload on fluid as this may disturb your sleep having to get up to visit the bathroom every couple of hours!

The morning of the event

The City2Surf starts at 8am approximately. Ideally, a pre-event meal is consumed three to four hours prior to start however in this instance, unless you enjoy getting up at 4am it makes no sense to lose sleep in order to eat at this time. Instead, a smaller, lighter, low fibre snack is recommended one to two hours before race start, along with at least 500ml of fluids.

The following lighter meals are suitable to eat one to two hours prior to exercise:

  • Liquid meal supplement e.g. Sustagen Sport + water
  • Fruit smoothie, milkshake or flavoured milk
  • Small bowl of breakfast cereal (lower fibre option) with milk
  • Cereal, sports or muesli bars
  • Fruit flavoured yoghurt
  • Fruit / fruit salad

The following foods are suitable to eat if there is less than one hour before race start. These foods are low in fibre, mostly fluids and higher GI – all of which will mean they have a better chance of being digested in time for the run:

  • Sports drink
  • Carbohydrate gels or confectionary
  • Cordial
  • Jelly lollies

What if I am too nervous to eat?

Heartbreak Hill will feel a lot longer if you have not had anything to eat or drink prior to the event! Runners should experiment in training the ideal timing and content of the pre-race meal to find a routine that works, that is familiar and you are confident in. Including carbohydrate rich fluids as part of your pre event meal helps you to achieve fuelling and hydration goals at the same time e.g. sports drinks, liquid breakfast poppers, smoothies, Sustagen Sport or similar. Foods like dry cereal pieces, or cereal based bars may work well because you can nibble at them slowly in the lead up to race start.

Eating and drinking during the event:

There is generally no need to consume carbohydrate during runs lasting less than 60 minutes. When running duration is over 60-90 minutes performance has been shown to improve if carbohydrates are ingested during an event. Due to the nature of running, the easiest and most convenient carbohydrate options are sports drink, sports gels or confectionary. One way to do this is to alternate having a cup of water and a cup of sports drink at drink stations; or aiming to have a sports gel with a cup of water every 30-45 minutes during the event. Sports gels are better digested when taken along with additional fluid.


The aim of the recovery meal involves the three R’s: Replenish, Repair / Rebuild, and Rehydrate. Replenish fuel stores with carbohydrates, repair and rebuild muscles with protein, and rehydrate with fluids.

A carbohydrate rich snack with some protein is ideal within half an hour of finishing e.g.

  • Fruit smoothie
  • Flavoured yoghurt
  • Flavoured milk
  • Liquid meal supplement

This should be followed up with a protein and carbohydrate containing meal within two to four hours e.g.

  • Cereals, muesli or porridge with milk
  • Eggs or baked beans on toast
  • Sandwich or roll with lean meat / fish / chicken
  • Stir-fry with rice

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