The last meal the night before a race is always something that is on a runner’s mind come competition day. Runners often have a special “go to” meal that they always eat before a race. Some go high carb, while others believe in meals that low fiber or high protein or low protein or low fat or a combination of many of many of these! Everyone has advice for what to consume so that you are physically prepared and energized come race day. So…what should you eat?
“What should I eat the night before a race?” is one of the most common questions that runners have. But, to answer that question, there are many things to take into consideration.
Fueling for a 5k is much different than fueling for a marathon. For shorter distances, there is no need to “carbo load” or eat more than you normally would. Your body contains enough stored energy to get you through shorter distance races, such as 5 and 10ks.
If you do over-consume the night (or nights!) before a shorter distance race, you will negatively impact your performance. Oversaturating your glycogen stores (think eating too many carbs that get converted to stored glucose) will cause you to temporarily gain water weight, making it harder to move your muscles. Additionally, you will overrun your body’s ability to tap into its fat reserves, which means that your body will not be able to burn excess fat for energy.
One Meal Cannot be a “Magic Bullet”
The relationship between nutrition and training is a dynamic one. It is cumulative and ongoing, so one meal is not going to be your “Magic Bullet” on race day. If you eat poorly, one week of healthy eating before a run will not make miracles happen. Proper nutrition is important to focus on throughout your training plan. The key is consistency.
Along with the question of “how much should I eat?” comes the question of “how much should I drink?” The rule of thumb is to drink to your thirst. That is, hydrate throughout the day as necessary, but do not attempt to guzzle gallons the days leading up to a race. A good way to tell if you are adequately hydrated is through the color of your urine. If your urine is a very light yellow color, you are good to go. If it is dark yellow or brown, drink up!
Stick with what you know
So, finally, what do you eat the night before a race? Well, what do you normally eat the night before a run of the same distance? Pizza? Then eat that before your race. Pasta? Eat that. Chicken, rice and roasted veggies? Eat that.
Eat what you have trained with, because you know whether or not it works. Take notes throughout your training as to what you eat the night before a run, how it made you feel afterwards, and how you felt on your run the next day. If you felt like running to the bathroom, skip that meal. If you felt like a rock star ready to bust out a few more miles, you know that meal is a good pre-race choice.