Thinking about running a 5K (or longer) this spring? Go for it! To start off on the right foot, follow these nutrition tips for ample energy to keep you going.

First things first, it’s important to find a balance between eating too little and eating too much before your race. Many people suffer from indigestion if they run too soon after eating, which is to be expected, but it’s not a good idea to run on an empty stomach either. Try to pre-game for your race with a smart portion of a carbohydrate and protein combination. For example:

• ¾ cup whole grain cereal topped with ½ cup lowfat milk

• A banana with 2 Tbsp. peanut butter

• 6-8 ounces greek yogurt with ½ cup high fiber cereal

• 4-6 whole grain crackers with 1-2 ounces low-fat cheese

• 1/3 cup trail mix made with nuts and dried fruit

Once you’ve made it to and through the finish line, be sure to eat something within 15 minutes. The protein-carb combination again packs a powerful one-two punch here. Now, many will argue that food doesn’t sound appealing after a big race, but remember this is a crucial time to refuel hard-worked muscles. Eating soon after your run helps replenish exhausted glycogen stores to bring your energy level back up and stave off extreme soreness by beginning the muscle rebuilding process.

A word of caution: many road races are stocked with nutritious options, but also a few less than desirable options too. Fruit and whole grains are great choices, but skip the pizza or donuts. If beer is a post-race option, be careful! With possible dehydration and a most certainly empty stomach, any alcohol you drink before refueling will metabolize extremely fast. You could feel tipsy after just a few sips and it will be even harder to rehydrate as the day goes on.

The remainder of the day, try to eat as normal as possible. It will feel tempting to treat yourself to a big (possibly unhealthy) meal after the big race, but don’t let that hard work go to waste by overeating and overindulging. A balanced lunch and dinner will be just what your body needs for good recovery, but also allowing you to reap the benefits of the hard effort you put in.

Above all, enjoy the race and good luck!

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a best selling author and the creator of "The F-Factor Diet", an innovative nutritional program she has used for over a decade to provide thousands with the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, and improved health and well-being. In January 2011 Tanya launched the F-Factor food line with the largest natural foods company in the US, the Hain Celestial group. She is thrilled to be able to offer the highest fiber products on the market to date. Become a fan of Tanya on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.

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