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What To Eat The Night Before A Long Run

Laura and I spent a lot of time trying to find a recipe we wanted to make this week. We have plenty of recipes on our list but we are both training for a race at the moment which affects what we want to put in our stomachs since what we eat can directly affect performance.

Then we got on the topic of what to eat the night before a long run.

While everyone is different, we all need to experiment with which meals work best for us the night before a long run since this meal most likely becomes what we want to eat the night before a big race.

This is actually not a topic we have discussed in-depth yet, isn’t that amazing?

What to eat the night before a long run

They say the focus should be on easy-for-you to digest carbs as the star of the show and focal point of your plate.

Plenty of people eat a protein source at this meal that they find works well for them but I am not one of those people. I am a meatless eater and not a huge protein eater to begin with so the meal I eat the night before a long run or race doesn’t really focus much on protein. I try to get my protein in earlier in the day and then just find a carbohydrate rich meal for dinner.

When I started taking running seriously almost five years ago, my pre long run dinner immediately involved sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes are easy to digest and high in complex carbohydrates which is great for loading your glycogen stores. The vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants help repair and restore you muscles.

I am quite capable of handling my vegetables too. In fact, I don’t really avoid them for routine long runs. I have even run a few marathons fueled with plenty of vegetables the evening before the races. While you may want to avoid vegetables since they can sit a little heavy in the stomach into the next morning, if you routinely eat vegetables, you don’t necessarily need to cut them out completely before a race or long run. Doing so may limit your ability to use the bathroom if you know what I mean. 🙂

The more I have thought about it, the more I have realized over the years that my best feeling long runs and races have involved pizza and bread. You know, the processed stuff versus the nutrient dense, clean eating carbohydrates.

Oh, and soup. I am not really a soup eater but a good tomato soup with bread has worked really well for me before a long run or race.

Two race weekends stand out to me when I think of times I have fueled really well the evening before the races.

The Runner’s World Half Marathon & Festival Weekend.

It was this weekend of races (5K, 10K and half marathon) back in 2014 where I first discovered how much better and fueled I felt when eating bread and soup versus potatoes as the star of my plate.

I had this sandwich with tomato soup at Panera the night before the 5k and 10k races. It’s the mediterranean veggie sandwich but not overly loaded with vegetables.

Panera Tomato Soup and Veggie Sandiwch

The night before the Runner’s World half marathon I had this hummus veggie sandwich and tomato soup at Cosi. I loved how well the Panera soup and sandwich worked that I wanted to go with the same type of meal.

Cosi

You can read more about the weekend of races and full fueling recap here.

Long Island Half Marathon 2016:

The more recent races, including the Long Island Half back in May which is my current PR race, have involved pizza the night before the race. Not only do I love pizza but I can digest it well too. I don’t have a problem with cheese but usually choose a sauce only slice plus a grandma slice.

pizza

It’s important to note that what works for one runner may not work for another. And, even more importantly, what worked for one during one training cycle may not work the next.

There have been times when I could handle beans the night before a long run and times that I just can’t. Right now I am trying to be a bit more conscious of what I am eating since I know it can affect how I feel during a run.

However, I try not to be fanatical about it. Since I run long on the weekends, there’s a good chance that I am out for dinner the night before a long run and I don’t want to miss out on going out to eat. I think that it’s good to have a bunch of meals and foods that I know I can eat and run well with the next morning regardless of where my meal takes place.

Being open and flexible to what and where you eat the night before a long run while realizing what works the best for you is crucial if you want to enjoy your life. I would hate to see people always turning down the opportunity to go out and be social simply because they need to always eat at home.

It’s also important to be  flexible about what and where to eat the night before a long run or race if the race is a destination race. While yes, it’s totally possible to pack and bring all of your food, it’s nice to be able to dine out and not feel totally limited while away.

My best advice that I can offer on this subject is to experiment to see what works for you. Pay attention during your long run to how you feel will give you a good indicator if last night’s dinner is the right meal for you. Get a good list going of foods you know you need to avoid plus the foods that work really well for you the night before a long run. You never want to try anything totally new before a race! But hopefully you know that already. 🙂

Be sure to check out Laura’s thoughts on what to eat the night before a long run.

What to eat the night before a long run #running #races #fueling #fitfluential @thisrunrecipes Click To Tweet

What  you like to eat the night before a long run?

Which foods definitely don’t work for you?

 

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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine September 23, 2016, 5:34 am

    I have found that I can tolerate vegetables pretty well before a long run or race but I just try to stick with foods I eat regularly. I used to eat pasta before all my long runs but I have sort of gotten away from that. I do know that it works pretty well for me though, but in general I try to eat food that offer more nutrients than pasta. Lately I have been eating spaghetti squash when Rob wants pasta, even though there haven’t been any long runs in awhile.
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    • The Cookie ChRUNicles September 24, 2016, 5:21 am

      my son likes spaghetti squash so I really have to start buying it again now that it’s all over the stores. it’s probably one of the few vegetables he will eat.

  • Laura @ This Runner's Recipes September 23, 2016, 8:49 am

    I can tolerate vegetables before a long run, but I skip them all together before a race if I’m out of town. I find it so interesting what other runners eat before a race or long run. Tomato soup is something I never thought of – although I crave soup after a cold rave.
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  • Arthi September 23, 2016, 9:29 am

    I’m totally a soup eater too the night before a long run/race! Chicken noodle or minestrone with lots and lots of white bread 🙂

    If I don’t do soup … I eat super plain grilled chicken (usually in a salad form but just eat the chicken and avoid vegetables) with bread on the side!
    Arthi recently posted…Highs and Lows.My Profile

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles September 24, 2016, 5:19 am

      I really love a good tomato soup with bread for a race! I don’t even like soup much but that combo is a great one

  • lauren September 23, 2016, 10:51 am

    This is interesting! Thanks for sharing. I just listened to a podcast and I wish I could remember which one…the guest was suggesting that the meal 24 hours before a long run/race is probably the most important. Do you have any thoughts on this??? Just curious.

    I don’t do a ton of races anymore but tomorrow am doing a 90 minute orange theory class at 6am. All day I will consciously hydrate and then make sure I have a dinner that includes protein, fat and carbs….no clue what it will be yet!
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    • The Cookie ChRUNicles September 24, 2016, 5:18 am

      yes, the night before a long run or race is not the time to first focus on fueling with carbs! the meals in the two days leading up to a race especially matter big time. it takes some type to keep stocking the glycogen. the night before is also important for glycogen levels but also crucial in terms of keeping it easy to digest foods that won’t hurt you in the morning when it’s time to run. I definitely make sure my breakfast and lunch the day before a race are more substantial and focused on carbs. if we wait until the night before to worry about fueling with carbs, the likelihood of having the right amount of energy is much lower than if we fuel well in the 36 hours leading up to the run. have fun at orange theory!

  • Suzy September 23, 2016, 11:11 am

    I stay from veggies the day before a long run/race but otherwise, I am pretty easy going about it. The timing of the meal is a lot more important to me than what’s in it. I make sure I eat an earlier dinner so that my gut isn’t full in the morning.
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    • The Cookie ChRUNicles September 24, 2016, 5:15 am

      timing is huge! I like to eat on the early side and definitely feel the difference if I eat later than normal

  • michele @ paleorunningmomma September 23, 2016, 9:39 pm

    I never totally avoided veggies but definitely cut down, and no broccoli! I’m sorta jealous of your ability to digest pizza well, lol. For me my best pre long run dinner is probably a burger with baked fries and a banana before bed.
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  • Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets September 24, 2016, 10:28 am

    I just like all the food talk, whether I’m running or not. Also it’s starting to feel like tomato soup and sandwich weather here; at least today.
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  • Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table September 24, 2016, 11:22 pm

    All great advice! I love the looks of that pizza too… my favorite!
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