It doesn’t get much better than ending a long, sweaty run with a nice, cool swim. If you agree with me, I hope you’ve signed up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, VA. Each year on Labor Day weekend, this popular race attracts many sweat-seekers to the coast. As an avid runner living in Virginia and a Registered Dietitian, I want to share a few words of wisdom.

On the day of the Boston marathon this past year, I took 47,326 steps according to my Apple™ Watch. While some steps were made before and after the marathon, the majority were taken during the grueling 26.2 mile competition. The average temperature was around 57 degrees in the Boston area. Good news for Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach runners is you’ll be running half that distance. Smart choice. The less good news is you probably will not be blessed with temperatures that low. Set yourself up for success by fueling properly before, during and after the race.

Pre-race, you want to consume a meal or snack that provides carbohydrates. The best meals are low-fiber, low-fat and include small amounts of protein as well. While training, you should practice your fueling strategy and stick to it on race day.

Remember your body can only store so much! Think of carbohydrate sources like milk, whole grains and fruit as gas for your car. Leading up to the race, you should go to the gas station (kitchen) and fill up your tank (body) with gas (balanced meals with carbohydrates). At some point on race day, your tank will eventually empty–usually around an hour of continuous endurance exercise. Be prepared to fuel on the course with simple easy-to-digest carbohydrates.

Lastly, properly thank your body for carrying you an amazing 13.1 miles by replenishing appropriately. You’ve likely emptied out your gas tank again at this point, so you want to choose a food with carbohydrates. Chocolate milk is a great option because it offers the perfect 3:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein, which research shows is ideal for recovery. Not only will chocolate milk provide you with the carbohydrates you need to refill your tank and the protein you need to rebuild your muscles, it will help you rehydrate and replenish electrolytes lost in sweat like potassium and sodium.

Because chocolate milk is such a great recovery fuel it will be offered at the finish line on race day, a perfect opportunity to rehydrate, replenish and rebuild!

Callie Yakubisin is a registered dietitian and the manager of food and nutrition outreach at The Dairy Alliance in the Virginia region. In this role, she develops and implements food and nutrition outreach programs with health professionals and groups like local food banks. She also participates in media tours promoting the benefits of enjoying dairy foods in print and on TV, radio and online media outlets. In addition, Callie writes material for The Dairy Alliance blog and social media channels.