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What to Eat on Race Day

by Kim Wathen, M.S. Exercise Phys/Dietitian


Cheese fries, grilled chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, tacos, salads…does it matter which of these you choose to eat on race day? Absolutely!!! Not only does it matter what you choose, but also when you choose to eat it.

Your Guidelines
Your goal is to have your energy levels high and to perform at your peak both mentally and physically during your moto. This is best accomplished by adhering to the following guidelines:

1. Eat and drink every 2-3 hours when possible
2. Eat complex carbs, not sugar
3. Eat slightly higher amounts of fat than normal
4. Avoid foods which may cause stomach upset or other side effects
5. Use proper timing: make sure you have carbs in your system when you go to the line
6. Consider using a sport drink and recovery drink (see “What to Drink on Race Day” article)

Sample Menus for Race Day
Low sugar cereal with milk
Fresh fruit and/or 100% juice
Whole wheat toast with butter


Deli turkey on whole wheat bread
Natural apple sauce

Fresh fruit

Grilled chicken
Brown rice
English muffin
Egg white omelet
Orange juice

Drinkable yogurt

Spinach wrap
Chicken breast
Baby carrots with dip

Granola bar

Pasta sauce

The Details

  1. Eating every 2-3 hours will keep your blood sugar within a normal range. Your best performance can only be achieved when you are in this normal range.

  2. In short there are 2 things to consider about carbohydrates; complex vs. simple, and whole grain/whole wheat. Pasta and table sugar are both carbs. One is complex (pasta) and one is not (table sugar). Complex carbs will affect blood sugar more slowly and will sustain energy levels longer. Sugars will affect blood sugar more quickly and will not sustain energy levels as long. Because your goal is to maintain your energy levels, you will want to eat complex carbs rather than sugar, especially on race day. Complex carbs are found in foods such as bread, muffins, bagels, etc. Although products made with white flour are complex carbs, it is best to get most of your carbs from whole wheat or whole grain sources.

  3. Fat will also help maintain your energy levels at their peak. I normally recommend a low fat diet, but a few days prior to, and during an athletic event it is fine to eat moderately higher fat than normal. If you did happen to run low on carbohydrate stores, your body would prefer burning fat for energy rather than protein to provide the energy you need to finish your race. Cheese, ice cream and fried foods are examples of high fat foods. They should not be the main foods you are eating.

  4. Avoiding foods which may have negative effects on your particular body is critical to feeling your best on race day. Milk products, caffeine, sugar and fat are just some of the ingredients that have the potential to cause stomach upset or some other side effect. If there is any chance at all that a food will have unwanted effects on you, don’t take a chance!

  5. Timing your food consumption can be a critical factor when you are reaching for peak performance on the track. Consuming a moderate amount of food 30-60 minutes before your moto is best. This meal should mainly consist of carbohydrates but should be mixed with protein as well. Good choices would be; turkey on whole wheat, yogurt and a bagel or english muffin, toast with a boiled or poached egg, peanut butter and fruit spread on whole wheat. A sport drink which is formulated for use prior to working out such as Cytomax's Preformance drink can also be used at this time, especially for those athletes who find it difficult to eat prior to an event.
  6. Glucose, which is obtained from carbs, is the only energy source your brain can use. So, it is very important for you to have carbs available in your body when you head to the line. Without carbs, your mental and physical performance could be impaired.

    After you are finished racing you will want to eat or drink for recovery. Although this needs to be done within 2 hours after your racing is finished for the day, it is most effective if completed within 15 minutes after your last moto. This meal or drink should contain both simple carbs (sugars) and some protein as well. Good choices would include yogurt and fruit, milk, red meat or chicken and baked potato. A sport drink formulated for recovery like Cytomax's Recovery drink is also a good choice.

  7. It is always important to stay hydrated prior to, during, and after race day. See my article “What to Drink on Race Day” for more information.

About the Author - Kim has an undergraduate degree in Dietetics from Michigan State University and began working as a personal trainer and nutrition consultant while finishing her Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology. As a self-employed trainer and dietitian, she has the privilege of working with people at many levels of fitness. She designs custom nutrition and fitness plans based upon the client's goals and current fitness level. She has designed programs for, and currently works with a 17 year-old amateur football linemen; senior citizens, and professional motocross racers working to hone their athletic skills, and rise to the top of their sport.

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    sam hughes April 16, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    wouldnt milk and yogurt sour in your stomach on a hot day?

  2. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer April 16, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Sam - ummmm, no. Milk and Yogurt will not sour in your stomach n a hot day.

  3. Gravatar
    Cody May 12, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    What do I do so I'm not so nervous at the gate

  4. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer May 15, 2014 at 5:02 am

    There is no magic pill to take to relieve nerves on the start ling. I actually think a little nervousness is a good thing. It keep you on the edge. The more you race, the more the nerves will be less of a distraction. I always tell my riders one thing. "Remember that you are there by choice and you are HAVING FUN!"

  5. Gravatar
    Lauren Atkins June 02, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    Would Gatorade give you arm pump? Because it has lots of sugar in it. And also what about if you have two days of racing back to back would you do this same eating both days?

  6. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer June 05, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    No, Gatorade will not give you arm pump.

  7. Gravatar
    Rosanne Tiso July 12, 2016 at 1:01 am

    Will GU energy gel give you arm pump?

  8. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer July 12, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Rosanne - No. GU energy Gel will not give you arm pump BUT why are you using energy gels in motocross??

  9. Gravatar
    Brechin February 28, 2017 at 4:31 am

    I heard that when coaches give us oranges at halftime of a football game, it is actually bad. I was told by Greg Moss that I should not eat them on a race day. Is this true?

  10. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer March 02, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    Brechin - No, this is NOT true!

  11. Gravatar
    Tyler buckman April 08, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    What can you do for arm pump? I am a 17yr old and have been racing since I was 5.
    I have never had this problem before but the last year I can’t get rid of it.

  12. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer April 19, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Tyler - Check out the arm pump articles on the site. There are several if you do a little digging.

    Have you recently moved up in class? Riding a newer/faster bike, etc.
    How long have you been experiencing arm pump?

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