The night before the race, you must replenish with a meal that will provide renewed energy without making your stomach cramp somewhere around the 10-mile mark.
It is best not to leave this decision to chance. What you eat at night can affect how you feel and run—next morning. One study found that runners’ dinners before races affected their performance even more than breakfast.
Although there are some recognized and research-supported guidelines for sports nutrition, each runner has a unique set of preferences and gastrointestinal peculiarities. Many people swear by the traditional pasta dinner.
You have to experiment with food three, four, five times before you can figure out what it does for you. During exercise, use long runs to practice different dining options. Notice how you feel that night and the next day – bloated or energetic, hungry or happy – until you find just the right formula.
Should you load with carbohydrates?
The practice of replenishing carbohydrates helps replenish your glycogen stores up to maximum capacity, so you can start the race fulfilled and ready to go.
You will not eat five kilos of pasta for one meal; You should spread these carbohydrates throughout the day within one to two days before entering the starting corral. But the dinner before the race should also tilt heavily towards carbohydrates, especially if this is how you usually eat.
The night before a marathon may be the one time you want to choose more refined grains and other simple carbohydrates.
Fluids can also allow you to squeeze in a few carbs at the last minute. Consider sipping a smoothie for dinner.
What else should you eat?
Besides plenty of carbs, aim to make about a quarter to a third of the dinner plate’s protein, which provides some adhesive power to the meal, so you don’t wake up hungry.
Cut back a little on fiber and fat, which can both bother your stomach during the night and the following day. If you usually eat a high-fat, high-fiber diet, your gut may be able to withstand similar amounts in the meal before running.
You should also avoid cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and cauliflower.
Have a little extra salt on your meal as well. Sodium is one of several essential minerals called electrolytes, lost through sweat, which helps your body maintain a proper fluid balance. It is critical to drink plenty of water, but you must balance it with electrolyte intake.
Meals before the marathon to try
Not sure where to start with dinner before the marathon? Here are some options:
- Spaghetti with chicken and a small spinach salad
- Baked potato (white or sweet) with vegetables and Greek yogurt
- Grilled salmon with rice and steamed vegetables
- Sushi. Just stay away from high-fat alternatives and additives such as crunchy rolls, tempura, cream cheese, or mayo.
- While a fatty delivery order with pepperoni, sausage, and extra cheese would probably be a bad idea, many athletes do well with a lighter pizza intake.
Another thing you want to train before running? The right time for the evening meal. You may want to eat a little earlier than usual to allow plenty of time for digestion, which is especially important if the race starts early and you think these nerves can interfere with your sleep before the race.