People always ask for advice on what to eat the night before a race. I’ve been running races for a few years, and through trial and error, have discovered what works well for me on the evening before a race. Of course, just because it works for me doesn’t mean that it will work for you.
First, I should dispel a myth – carb loading. Carb loading is generally a good idea, but eating a big meal of pasta the night before the race isn’t going to do it. You need to be increasing your carb intake throughout the week or so leading up to your race.
Does that mean you shouldn’t have pasta the night before a race? Not at all! If you like pasta and know that your stomach can handle it, then by all means, go for it! I have actually discovered that my body really likes gnocchi before a race, but I’m careful to avoid heavy cream sauces. But I’m lucky in that I can eat a lot of things before a race.
A friend of mine avoids the pasta and goes for something like steak and a baked potato. Since I eat red meat so rarely, this isn’t a route I would take, but I could definitely do chicken and a baked potato.
I also really like pizza the night before a race. But in general, I really like pizza.
What doesn’t work for me? I can’t eat too late, that’s a given. I like to be eating dinner around 5pm the night before a race. I also have to be careful to not eat too much. I’ve done that before and spent the entire race feeling very heavy. Not sick, just heavy and sluggish. That’s probably something everyone should be cautious about.
So it is a lot of trial and error. But my recommendation is always to not eat something that’s not part of your normal diet. If you normally eat low carb, don’t suddenly load up on pasta. And simple is always better.
And practice! The night before a long run, eat something different and see how you feel the next day. Maybe you’ll feel great, maybe you’ll struggle, but either way, you will have learned something.