Marathon training brings with it a whole host of new questions. How do we run so far without getting bored? How do we prevent chafing? How do we carry food on long runs? Do we even need fuel on long runs?
Which can quickly spiral us in to training overwhelm.
As a coach, I encourage you to focus on one piece at a time. You will figure out the tips to prepare for a long run, you will figure out how to pace yourself and you will realize that boredom isn’t really an issue.
Today we’re going to focus on one component of the long run, your night before meal.
One key of the best runners is they PAY ATTENTION to how they feel after a meal. Start keeping a journal where you not only record the running data from your long run, but some notes about what you ate and if you bonked or if you felt strong the whole time.
Examples of what to eat the night before a long run
- Pizza (Yes!): High in carbs, but keep the serving size reasonable
- Salmon: High protein, anti-inflammatory food that’s easy to digest
- Sweet Potato: Carbs, and some of the best carbs for runners
- Basic Chicken: Simple, packed with nutrients, protein, carbs, and fat
- Grilled Vegetables: Nutrients without a huge amount of fiber
It comes down to this—eat a well-balanced meal of nutrients to give your body energy. Here are the details.
Kara Gouchers Pizza – That’s right! A lot of runners, myself included, often have a slice or two of pizza the night before a long run. Even though I’m not excellent with dairy this doesn’t seem to bother me.
- It’s high in carbohydrates
- You can eat a small salad with it for nutrients, but not a ton of fiber
- Lycopene in the tomato sauce is super healthy
- Pineapple for you Hawaiian lovers is great for digestion
- Keep the serving REASONABLE and this is an easy to digest meal
Sweet Potato Life – Potatoes have gotten a bad rap, when in fact they are one of the best carbohydrates for runners.
- A serving of salmon provides a high protein anti-inflammatory food that’s easy to digest
- Baked sweet potato provides the carbohydrates to help your body feel primed to run
- A small serving of steamed broccoli or asparagus provide nutrients, again without a huge amount of fiber
Basic Chicken – Yup, the theme with a lot of these meals is they aren’t complicated. We want simple foods the body can work with quickly and you’ll notice we aren’t worried about a massive amount of carbohydrates. Instead, we want nutrients, protein, carbs and fat.
- A grilled chicken breast
- A cup of grilled veggies
- A baked potato
BOOM SO EASY.
What to not eat the night before a long run
- Avoid high fiber meals
- Avoid high fat meals
- Don’t feel you need to pound the carbs
Your choices the night before can help to prevent runners trots (eh hem bathroom issues), ensure you have enough energy to prevent bonking and keep you from playing the dreaded game of marathon weight gain.
Runners all have slightly different tolerance levels for foods and that tends to get better for many runners the longer they have been doing it because just like your legs adapt, your body starts to get prepared for these longer runs.
The reason is that we can have stomach issues is because once you start running, all the blood is diverted from your stomach to your muscles…so if there is something in there still needing to be digested it results in cramps and other issues.
Do you need to eat pasta before a long run?
Nope, this is a long standing running myth that I would like to put behind us. If you happen to be someone who LOVES pasta and knows that you digest it well, then go for it, but that often isn’t the case for many runners.
- It’s unlikely you need to carbo load unless you have been eating less than 100grams of carbs per day for the rest of the week.
- Your body has a good amount of carbohydrates stored in the muscle ready to go.
- This does not mean it’s ok to skip dinner and then go out for a fasted long run. We know this will be a detriment to performance and goals. Do NOT UNDER FUEL YOUR BODY.
- What you eat the night before matters, but equally with what you eat before your run.
A few other things not to do with your meal:
- You want to avoid large meals that require a lot of digestion, which can make you feel sluggish in the morning.
- You want to avoid food intolerances, which could contribute to needing urgent bathroom stops.
- A glass of wine no problem…a bottle…well that’s up to you.
If you’re over thinking the night before meal, you’re likely creating a lot of additional stress and you know what happens then?
It slows down your digestion.
It results in nerves before you start running.
You end up in the bathroom, which was a big thing you were trying to avoid to start with! So instead of freaking out about, simply think about what you normally eat for dinner and if it has ever caused an issue with your shorter morning runs during the week.
What to Eat Before Your Run in the Morning?
While the night before is important, what you eat the morning of your run is equally important. I’ve talked previously about why not to do fasted long runs, which means ya gotta put some fuel in the tank.
Get my free guide on what to eat before your run to keep your stomach happy and energy steady.
Additional Long Run Food Tips:
More questions about fueling your runs? Let me know.
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