Eat a balanced diet before the SPAR women's race

To do your best for the SPAR Women's 10km run, you need to eat a healthy, balanced diet. What you eat and drink during training and competing will affect your performance. Unhealthy eating can cause muscle loss, bone density loss, fatigue, injury, illness and, sometimes, menstrual changes. This leaflet will give you some general guidelines about energy intake and fluid - before, during and after the race.  

  • You need sufficient energy in the form of starches or carbohydrates (CHO's). They help maintain blood glucose levels and are stored in muscles as glycogen. This glycogen is used as energy during exercise. Eating a snack or meal with CHO's after exercising, helps replace the glycogen you have used up and prevents fatigue at your next training session! CHO's should form the main body of all meals and snacks. Include mostly high fibre CHO's such as wholewheat bread and rolls, brown rice, baby potatoes, sweet potatoes and wholegrain cereals.
  • Include protein with meals to maintain muscle mass. Do not follow a high protein diet without CHO's - it will not provide you with enough energy and will cause fatigue affecting your training. Rather enjoy a meal of CHO's with a low fat protein, such as grilled fish, skinless chicken, lean red meat, lean pork, low fat cheese, lentils or dried beans. Low fat dairy products will provide you with protein and are a good source of calcium, which is important for bone strength. Fish such as tinned salmon, pilchards and sardines are good sources of protein and essential fatty acids.
  • Fat should be included in your daily eating. Choose unsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds and avocados, which will also provide fibre (roughage) vitamins & minerals. Use small amounts of olive oil, low oil mayonnaise, low fat margarine and other cooking oils.  Avoid deep-fried foods.
  • Vegetables and fruit provide CHO's, vitamins, minerals and fibre (roughage). Try to include at least 5 different vegetables and fruit daily. Fresh and dried fruit make wonderful snacks between meals. 
  • Have 3 smaller meals and 2 - 3 snacks during the day, as this helps to control blood sugar levels and provides energy throughout the day.
  • Drinking enough fluid at ALL times is important. Dehydration affects training and performance. A good way to measure if you are dehydrated is to look at the colour of your urine. It should be clear - if it's dark, you are not drinking enough during the day!
  • It is common for lady runners to have low iron levels, especially if you follow a vegetarian diet. To increase iron intake eat dried fruit; dark green leafy vegetables e.g. spinach; iron-fortified cereals and lean red meat (if you're not vegetarian). Drink or eat a vitamin C-rich fruit with iron-rich food, as this increases iron absorption, e.g. orange juice or tomato wedges. Avoid coffee and tea with meals as this can decrease iron absorption.


  • 1 glass of fresh orange juice
  • High-fibre cereal with skim or low fat milk


  • Apple/pear/grapes
  • Tub of low fat/fat-free yoghurt


  • Wholewheat roll/baked potato in jacket/2 slices rye bread
  • Tuna/low fat cottage cheese/lean chicken/sardines/baked beans
  • Salad, e.g. mixed green/beetroot/grated carrot
  • Avocado or low oil mayonnaise


  • Handful of nuts & raisins/slice of bread with peanut butter
  • Naartjie/orange/banana


  • Brown rice/baby potatoes/wholewheat spaghetti/mealie pap
  • Grilled fish/chicken/steak/lentils/beans
  • Green and orange veg, e.g. peas & carrots/spinach & pumpkin/green beans & butternut

It's not necessary to carbo-load before this event, but the pre-race meal is important  - don't skip it! Stick to food that you are used to and you know will not upset your digestive system. Eat foods that give you a good energy boost two hours before the race, e.g. toast with honey or jam; banana and yoghurt or oats with low fat milk.

Avoid very high-fibre food like muesli, and very fatty food. Test your "pre-race meal" out on some training days to see what works best for you. Fluid is also important before the race. Drink at least 500 ml of water or a sports drink two hours before the race.

Fluid is important, especially if it's a hot day! Drink at least150 ml of fluid every 20 minutes. Choose a sports drink which will also provide you with some energy.

Replacing glycogen stores after the race, is as important as during training as it helps recovery. Have a high CHO food or drink within an hour of finishing e.g a sports drink and banana, water and a packet of jelly babies or a fruit smoothie. Avoid alcoholic beverages  -  you may feel you deserve it but wait for later as this will not help recovery!

A healthy balanced diet should provide the vitamins and minerals you need. Your body requires more nutrients if you are training often and you may therefore take a multivitamin and mineral supplement at NORMAL doses.  In addition:

  • If your iron levels are low, take an iron supplement.
  • If you are having cramps, you could be lacking calcium, magnesium and/or potassium.
  • Consult a dietitian for an individualized programme if you are finding it difficult to manage your diet.

Enjoy eating a variety of foods and enjoy your training! Good luck for the race!

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is provided by the SPAR Group Ltd for general information purposes only. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.