CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) — The 46th annual Cooper River Bridge Run kicks off Saturday, and a local sports nutritionist is sharing the best foods to fuel your body ahead of the race.

“It’s just such an electric energy for the bridge run,” said Alaine Mills, registered dietitian and certified specialist in sports dietetics. “You always feel amazing once you get over it. Every single time, no matter how many times you do it, you feel great.”

Mills has been running the Cooper River Bridge Run for nearly ten years, and as an expert in sports nutrition, she knows all that energy on race day comes from what you put in your body.

“It’s so amazing to see people improve their performance when they start fueling properly, because a lot of people get into running, and they don’t understand how important the energy systems are for that,” she said.

Mills said the number one thing that can slow you down on the run is not being properly hydrated.

“Ideally you would wake up about two hours before the race starts, and start drinking water. You want to have at least 20 ounces of water two hours before the race, and an additional eight ounces about 30 minutes before,” she said. “That’s really important.”

Carbohydrates are another key ingredient for fueling up before the race, she said.

“Not a lot of protein or fat, but mostly carbs. So, a bagel with peanut butter is a really good option there,” Mills said.

Saturday morning, she suggests having a good breakfast about two hours before the run, which kicks off at 8:00 a.m.

“If you wake up late, or if you need an extra boost of energy, something like one of these unsweetened applesauce pouches, you could take to the start line,” she said.

After the race, adding protein in along with more fluids and carbohydrates can help prevent muscle soreness.

“You could have something like a protein shake and a banana, or if you’re going to head to brunch after the race, maybe get an omelet with vegetables and toast,” Mills said. “That’s the magic ratio to give your muscles the most recovery.”

Plus, Mills added, be smart about how you celebrate.

She said not drinking alcohol after the race, or at least limiting your intake as much as possible, will help you recover the most.

“Unfortunately, alcohol is really the worst thing you can have after a race, because it’s so pro-inflammatory to the body, and you’ve already inflamed your muscles by working your hardest to get over the bridge,” she explained.

Mills’ advice will help you get over more than just the Ravenel Bridge, too.

Going forward, she said small changes to everyday habits can lead to big results, whether you’re simply looking to build a more balanced plate, or planning to tackle another huge fitness goal.

A few of her tips — check your pantry before you head to the grocery store, and plan out balanced meals ahead of time.

“I would say meal planning in grocery shopping is really important, especially with the cost of groceries these days,” she said.

Don’t forget to make vegetables a priority, too. You should eat three to five servings every day, so try incorporating vegetables into every meal and snack, she said.

“I find people are only doing them at dinner, and you’re never going to get to the amount that you need by doing that,” Mills said.

If you’re planning to start another fitness challenge after the Bridge Run, Mills suggests focusing on foods that fuel your body instead of the scale.

“Undereating and overexercising I think is something that people do when they’re like ‘I’m gonna do this marathon,’ or ‘I’m gonna do this 10K,’ and ‘I’m gonna eat less and exercise more,’” she said. “You have to make sure that you do that kind of moderately.”

This March is the 50th anniversary of National Nutrition Month. Click here to learn more about the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ annual campaign for healthy eating and physical activity habits.
For your full guide to the Cooper River Bridge Run, click here.