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Training & Eating for a 5K

Author: be well™ with Big Y® Registered Dietitian Team

How to feel and perform your best before, during and after running a race.

As spring arrives, so does the season of 5K races. Running alongside, or in honor of, someone you love is a great way to get active, help a good cause (especially if fundraising!) and create memories, and possibly momentum, for years to come.

Whether it is your first, third or twentieth 5K, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you lace up and hit the road.


#1- Before Race Day


Getting miles under your belt before the big day is a must. Not only will you feel better if you train ahead, but you’ll also protect your heart, brain and lungs from unnecessary stress in the process. The more out of shape you are, the harder your heart will need to pump for you to complete the race and thereby the higher your blood pressure could rise. Additionally, your breathing will be much less taxing when you’re well trained. Added bonus to training ahead—feeling amazing prior to, and during the road race. Who knows? The running bug may bite!

A great resource for novice and pro 5K runners alike is Hal Higdon’s 5K Training guide. Check it out at https://www.halhigdon.com/training/5k-training/.



To fuel workouts leading up to race day, aim to #HaveAPlant at every meal. This means including at least one serving of fruits and one serving of vegetables at meal and snack times. Balance these colorful nutrient powerhouses with energizing carbohydrates from whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa and flour wraps. Add in a source of protein like dry beans, peas and lentils, soy, tofu, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, seafood, poultry or lean beef and pork to help rebuild muscle. Stay hydrated with 100% juice, lowfat milk products, milk alternatives like soymilk, coffee, tea, sparkling water and still water.


#2- Race Day


If you’re participating in your first 5K, aim to jog steadily versus running full speed. Additionally, be open to weaving in bouts of walking when necessary. The goal is to finish, not win. Get your body warmed up with gentle jogging and stretching prior to starting. Once you run past the finish line, keep walking. You want to slowly bring your heart rate and blood pressure back to normal. Be sure to give yourself a long, rejuvenating stretch after cooling down.



Before the race, eat a small meal or snack rich in carbohydrates like fruit with cereal and milk. Hold foods high in fat until after your run. Replenish nutrients, such as carbohydrates and electrolytes, with a post-race snack like a nut butter and banana sandwich.

For hydration, water works best for most people participating in activities under an hour. That said, if the weather is humid or you tend to sweat a lot, an electrolyte beverage providing potassium and sodium may be beneficial.


#3- Post Race


Keep up the effort you’ve been committed to! Go for a shorter, gentler jog the next day. Register for your next 5K road race immediately and keep your motivation going.



Again, keep up the effort you’ve started! Continue fueling daily activities with fruits and vegetables as the base of every meal. Mix in whole grains, protein-rich foods and a sprinkle of healthy fats from nuts, seeds and plant oils. Hydration remains important for your body to feel and function at its best. Continue drinking a variety of beverages without added sugars to meet daily water needs.

Published 2/20/2024