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What should i eat before a race

What should I eat before a race or practice?

Eating the proper diet is so important if you are really interested in maximizing your performance in a dragon boat.  I found the recommendations in “Paddles UP! Dragon Boat Racing in Canada” by Arlene Chan and Susan Humphries very helpful in selecting foods before race time and before training.  Everyone needs to eat according to their individual needs, however I will offer the following suggestions from the book as a starting point for your own personal diet on race day, and before and after training.

Foods to avoid on race day:

  • High fat, low nutrient foods;
  • Protein rich foods;
  • Processed refined foods;
  • Spicy foods;
  • Fibre-rich foods;
  • Gas producing foods, e.g., beans, cabbage, carbonated drinks;
  • Cream soups;
  • Fried foods;
  • Processed meats with high salt content;
  • Salads with creamy dressings
  • Alcohol, coffee, tea

Digestion times:  Sufficient time is needed before a race or practice:

  • Large meal— three to four hours
  • Smaller meal— two to three hours
  • Snacks—e.g., fruit —one to two hours

Better to eat five or six small meals through out the day, and to eat the largest meal early. Carbohydrates provide the main source of energy for activity.  Limit fat and protein portions as they take longer to digest.  Four hours before the activity drink at least one mouthful of fluid for every kilogram of body weight.  Coffee and tea does not count.

Suggested meals and snacks before races and practice:


  • Low acid fruits such as peaches, pears, apricots, apples;
  • Fruit juice;
  • Low fat yogurt or yogurt smoothie with fresh fruit and juice
  • French toast, pancakes with maple syrup, no butter
  • Boiled or poached eggs;
  • Lean ham or steak (small portion);
  • Potatoes—no butter or margarine
  • Rice, quinoi, steamed or boiled
  • Pasta and sauce
  • Toast or bagel with jam or honey, no margarine or peanut butter or cream cheese
  • Chocolate milk—- 1 percent
  • Beverages—at least one glass

Lunch/Dinner Suggestions:

  • Fruit and vegetables:
  • Soups—broth, not cream;
  • Lean chicken, or fish
  • Fresh cold cuts, not processed
  • Pasta with tomato or vegetable sauce
  • Whole grain breads or crackers
  • Salads with low fat cottage cheese, limited dressing

One hour or less before Race or Practice:

  • Fruit
  • Juice e.g., orange, tomato, or V-8
  • Water

Two to three hours before Race or Practice:

  • Fruit
  • Fruit or vegetable juices
  • Bread, bagels;
  • Low fat yogurt
  • Water

Three to four hours before Race or Practice:

  • Fruit
  • Fruit or vegetable juices
  • Bread, bagels
  • Pasta with tomato sauces
  • Baked potatoes
  • Cereal with low fat milk
  • Low fat yogurt
  • Toast or bread with limited peanut butter, lean meat or low fat cheese
  • Water


Between races, after the race, after practice, or at the end of the day:

Priority # 1 is fluid replacement (water, diluted fruit juices, low calorie sports drinks).

Eating carbohydrates within 15 minutes of a race or practice stimulates insulin production and the production of glycogen.  The body is at its highest rate of absorbency and delivery of nutrients to cells.

  • Fruit especially bananas
  • Low fat granola bars
  • Low fat yogurt
  • Fig newtons
  • Almonds
  • Diluted fruit juice
  • Pretzels

Post Event:

Try to eat some protein for muscle repair and fats to help absorb nutrients. Also drink fluids to replace your fluid losses from exercise and exposure to sun.




Reviewed by Dragons Abreast on 04 February 2013

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