What food should I pack for races?

In short, pack foods you like to eat. My only warning is not to pack tons of sweet foods as you’ll be sick of them after a few hours.

Foods of substance

Here you can mix it up with brown bread or white (slices or rolls) and a variety of fillings for sandwiches. Peanut butter and honey/jam is a staple. Some prefer chocolate spreads. While Melrose works ok, cheese is generally a no-no, especially in hot conditions; it goes really nasty. If you’re only racing for a few hours, ham is alright but I wouldn’t leave this sammie in your backpack, in the heat, for too long.

In a similar category to sandwiches I’ve even taken left overs from dinner, in a zip-seal bag to eat during races. These include mashed potato with a sauce of some kind (tomato), pasta and sauce (bolognaise) or a rice-something mix. These are easy to slurp from a packet.

Speaking of packets… you can slurp Pronutro and similar ‘just add water’ mixes from a bag too. On races longer than 24 hours a protein / supplement shake in transition will go down well.

Salty snacks

Crackers (think Salticracks, Bacon Kips and those cheesy ones), mix salted nuts (including peanuts), crisps (NikNaks are time and time again an AR winner), corn-nuts, biltong, salted boiled baby potatoes and loads of others in this category are always good race foods.

Sweet stuff

I’m not big on sweet foods for racing although I know racers who survive almost exclusively on chocolate. Enerjellies, Jelly Tots and Wine Gums are common favourites. Many swear by fruit cake. Sports bars are also sweet and they get less desirable as the race progresses. Gels have their place too.

Dried fruit can go down well. Mango strips, apple rings, dates and bananas (not the banana chips – proper dried banana) are my favourites. Fresh, crunchy apples regularly find their way into my backpack. Trail mixes with dried fruit bits and nuts are enjoyable snacks.

And to drink?

My rule is to always put water in your hydration bladder and use a bottle for energy/carbohydrate drinks. Again, too much on the energy drink side will make you feel ill. For me, water is king – balanced by electrolyte replacing foods.

With experience you’ll find what works for you – and here is also depends on the duration of the race. Mix it up and trade foods with teammates. You’ll figure out the tastes you like on the go.

Walk the aisles and don’t buy anything weird; you won’t eat it on the race. Focus on real foods that you enjoy eating. Anything that goes down and stays down is a good race food.

3 Comments

  1. For the last couple years I’ve been racing with wraps rather than breads. Chicken / tuna mayo wraps have been the best as the mayo makes them moist and easy to eat. The wraps also don’t break apart easily if you eating them on the run unlike bread. Stay away from “dry” food like muffins as they very hard to get down.

  2. If you are going to be in a “just add hot water” situation for something approaching a meal, I found the following was an amazing (quick!) main meal for KAEM: 70g two-minute noodles, (any flavour except beef/boerewors); 50g powdered biltong. Chuck that in your tin mug and add lots of boiling water. Once it’s all cooled a bit and softened up to edibility, add a 40g sachet of fallini formaggi grated cheese. (Don’t add it when the water is still piping, or you get chewing gum.) This will give you 2665 kilojoules of protein and fat-packed energy – just what you need for the long haul, and it tastes fantastic. You can use a beefy flavour of 2MNs, but it’s a bit overpowering. Chicken is better. That grated cheese lasted absolutely fine for a week in my backpack at 40 to 50 degrees – no melting, no rancidity. If you have a small plastic bottle to carry it in, a 10ml shot of olive oil will hype your dinner up to 3034kj. Pretty good for less than 200g.

  3. Everyone likes thier own mix of foods. Staples for me (I cannot use sugar as it gives me tummy problems):

    1. Raisins
    2. Tinned Fish (Sardines or Herring)
    3. Wimpy chicken burger without garnish

    I find I need lots and lots of protein while I am racing, the chicken patty and the tinned fish work best.

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