XACT Nutrition Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend 2022 Race Day Nutrition Guide

You’ve put in the work over the past few months and now we are all but counting down to race day. So, how will you fuel yourself over your chosen distance, whether it be 5, 10, 21 or even 42.2 kms?  Did you know fueling properly is the difference between a bad, not so bad and a GREAT race?  And that it is easy to do.  It’s all about avoiding the bonk, or ‘hitting the wall’ as it is well known.  

Let us walk you through everything from the days before the race, right up to post race recovery (come see us at the runner’s recovery lounge in Confederation Park)

Our body’s energy

There are three main energy sources for our bodies; carbohydrates, protein and fat.  Our bodies preferred fuel source for a medium-high intensity activity like running a marathon are carbohydrates.  Simple carbohydrates (sugars) are quick to digest and rapidly convert to usable energy, while more complex carbohydrates are slower burning.  Our bodies usually burn the calories we get from eating carbohydrates over the few hours following a meal.  We are also able to accumulate some carbohydrate reserves in our muscles and liver, this is known as glycogen.  These glycogen reserves are an important energy source when we run long distances like 10, 21 or 42 kilomtres; they can last 60-90 minutes depending on the person and we can supplement this energy during our run with gels and energy bars like XACT Energy.


Building up that glycogen reserve: 3 days before the race, start focusing on carbs as the centrepiece of your meals.  It doesn’t mean dishes piled high with pasta every meal, but at least regular intake of carbs like rice, potatoes and pasta. Combined with your reduced training plan as you taper for the race, this will allow your body to stock up your glycogen reserves providing you with “fuel” ready in the tank. 

It is important to properly hydrate over this time as our bodies will naturally store water with the glycogen.  It also helps to be properly hydrated before a large endurance event (as we will no doubt be doing a lot of sweating come race day).  Electrolytes like sodium will help us to absorb and retain fluids effectively.  An extra glass of water each day (ideally with some electrolytes mixed in) will help ensure you are properly hydrated in preparation for your race.

Dinner the night before:

This will be the last chance for you to stock up your glycogen reserves so keep eating carbs!  Stick with foods you know well, keep it simple and don’t over eat. At big city races, often you’re away from home the night before so pasta is an easy option to find in restaurants or prepare beforehand. Go easy on the fats, proteins and fibre (yep, white pasta is OK on this occasion, especially if too much fibre doesn’t agree with you). It helps to eat early in the evening too so that food is digested and you can go to bed rested.  On that note, avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Race day Breakfast:

Stay on the carb train! But don’t feel you have to stuff yourself; you’ll be carrying what you eat. Bagels or porridge mixed with jam, sliced banana or maple syrup provide a mix of slow burning and fast burning carbs, so you’ll be energised at the start line but not feeling hungry. 

Keep it simple and aim to have eaten at least 2 hrs prior to the race to be sure your stomach has settled. If you drink coffee then go ahead and have your morning cuppa. Caffeine stimulates the body and has been proven to reduce perceived effort during intense exercise.

Race time!

5 km and 10 km

For race distances like the 5 km and 10 km, it is unlikely that you’ll be fueling during the race. If you have followed the above steps then your glycogen reserves should easily be able to supply all the energy you need and allow you to focus on the race.  

However, because of the late afternoon / early evening start of the races ( 4 pm for the 5 km and 6:30 pm for the 10 km), it may have been a while since lunch and so a small easy to digest snack like an XACT Energy 30-60 minutes before the race would be an ideal energy boost.

Marathon & 21.1 km distances

Just like with the 5 and 10 km pre-race snack plan, you can give your energy levels one last pre-race boost by taking a gel or XACT ENERGY bar 30 minutes before the race.  This is particularly useful if it has been more than a few hours since breakfast, as you will have already started burning the energy you consumed at that time. 

As mentioned, those glycogen reserves you built up will last you about 60-90 minutes into your race.  The idea is to keep that reserve topped up by consuming simple carbs like gels or energy bars during your run.

The key is to start fueling before these reserves run out.  Otherwise, when the reserves start to get low, that is when you start to bonk (lose energy, slow down and even start to feel dizzy and nauseous). 

The strategy is easy enough: Whether it is gels, energy bars or chews, aim to eat 100 calories of simple carbohydrates every 30-45 minutes.  

This is where an XACT ENERGY bar comes in handy; each bar is exactly 100 calories, is easy to eat and easy to digest.  So a great choice for eating and running at the same time.  

For those of you going for a Personal Best; if you can eat a bar more regularly than every 45 minutes, then you should be able to push harder for longer, as you will be fueling at a higher rate.  

Marathon course:

There are three XACT NUTRITION feed stations along the course.  Each station will be stocked with a mix of strawberry, apricot and orange XACT ENERGY bars (when you pick up your bib swing by our booth at the expo to get a taste!).

The first is in Tunney’s Pasture at 10.5 km along the course, at the intersection between Tunney’s Pasture Drive and Sorrel Driveway.  Look out for our giant #fuelyourgoals arch, you shouldn’t miss it.  There is a water station just 500m afterwards.  

The second is on Sussex Drive about 400 metres after Alexandra bridge as you head towards Rockcliffe park, at approximately 27 kms along the course.  Then the 3rd is just over the barrier as you head back towards the finish at 38 kms. 

If you know what pace you expect to be running, you can work out approximately at what time you’ll arrive at each. For example, If you are running at 6 minutes per kilometre, you’ll be hitting the first station at just over 60 minutes and so possibly ready for your second bar (yes do bring bars and gels with you as well as use the ones available on the course).  

If you know roughly how long your run will take you then you can calculate how many bars you will need from the start of the race.  You may have three or four with you at the start, then can grab more on the course.  It is always handy to have 1 extra packed with you ..just in case..

There are hydration stations every 3-5 kms along the course.  So grabbing a mouthful of water or electrolyte drink regularly is easy and definitely recommended.  With the race taking place in late May, there is a strong chance that it could be a warm day. Listen to your body, anticipate your hydration needs, but don’t just try to chug as much as possible as you go along.

21 km course: 

There is one fueling station on the half marathon course.  It is the same as the first feed station on the marathon at the 10.5 km mark, at the intersection of Tunney’s Pasture Drive and Sorrel Driveway.  This will also be stocked with XACT Energy bars.  For many folks, that important 45-30 minute timing may mean they’ll have packed a gel or XACT Energy bar to eat before reaching the station and will want to grab an XACT Energy bar there to eat soon after.  That second bar will be what keeps your energy up as you push over Alexandra bridge and out and back along the canal towards the finish line.  

There are plenty of water and electrolyte drink stations along the 21 km course too.  If it is a warm day, aim to grab a cup when you can.  Listen to your body’s thirst signals and your sweat rate. No need to be chuggin litres of fluid at every station.

How many bars will you need?

Use this table to get an idea of how many bars or gels you will need for your distance.  Remember, the harder you push, the more regularly you’ll want to be consuming energy:

Bar number: Every 30 mins Every 45 mins
1 30 mins 45 mins
2 1 hr 1 h 30
3 1 h 30 2 h 15
4 2 hrs 3 h 
5 2 h 30 3 h 45
6 3 h 4 h 30
7 3 h 30 5 h 15
8 4 h 6 h 

And so on..

**Pro tip on caffeine:

Caffeine is a great stimulant for the body and brain and has been proven to reduce perceived effort during endurance events like running.  For the marathon and half marathon runners, don’t wait until late in your race to take a caffeinated gel (XACT Energy Blackcurrant has 50 mg of caffeine – like a shot of espresso).  Caffeine’s effect can last for a few hours so take them early on to get the most benefit.  For runners doing the 8 km course, you can consume caffeine 30-60 minutes prior to the race to benefit from it.


Congratulations you’ve finished!  Come join us at the XACT Recovery Lounge in Confederation Park; grab an XACT PROTEIN bar, some fluids and sit/lie/fall down – we’ll have the music and post race ambiance ready when you get there.  

By consuming a mix of protein and carbs soon after your race, you’ll help your body recover quicker.  Fluids are important so aim for 500-1000 ml after your race ..Once you’ve finished that, you’ll be ready for that post race celebratory beer. Well done!