When discussing possible recipes for our recipe challenge this week, Meredith and I wanted to find a recipe that could work as a pre long run dinner. However, we quickly realized the challenge of this endeavor.
Neither of us eat similar foods before a long run or race. While I try to eat less meat overall, my pre long run dinner is never vegetarian.
For health reasons and athletic performance, I do eat meat most nights at dinner – especially the night before a long run. I purposefully plan our meals each week so dinners with legumes (like falafel or lentil curries) or pizzas are saved for nights before a rest day or easy run.
My typical pre long run dinner consists of either fish or chicken, a salted baked russet potato with Greek yogurt, and roasted vegetables (but not cruciferous – something easy to digest like zucchini, bell peppers, or eggplant). If I have a very long run or a race the next day, I may add a partial serving of brown rice or winter squash.
For a vegetarian perspective on what to eat the night before a long run, be sure to check out Meredith’s post today!
A pre long run dinner is part of your fueling plan for your long run. If you run in the morning, your pre long run dinner is your last full meal before your run. You should be eating a snack before your long runs, but often this snack will just top of the meal you had the night before.
If you’re being intentional about your nutrition and running, your pre long run dinner should aim to meet certain goals. This meal is meant to prepare your body for a long run. Neither heavy meals nor low carbohydrates dinners will optimally prepare your body to run 10, 16, or 22 miles the next day.
What to Eat the Night Before a Long Run
The Goals of a Pre Long Run Dinner:
- Provide your body with carbohydrates and calories to fuel your next day’s run
- Be a part of a high quality diet geared towards health and athletic performance
- Be easy to digest and gentle on the stomach to avoid GI distress
- Practice what you will eat before the race
While you don’t want to overeat, you also want to make sure you fuel your body with your pre long run dinner. This is not the time to skimp on food or cut carbs – your body needs those for energy!
Guidelines for What to Eat the Night Before a Long Run:
- Avoid foods that are common culprits of GI distress (see below)
- Include carbohydrates, protein, and a bit of fat – as you would for any well-balanced meal
- Opt for complex carbohydrates: potatoes, squash, whole grains
- Food safety: cook your meats, wash your vegetables, choose cooked over raw vegetables
- Practice eating the meal you will eat the night before the race.
- Choose lean sources of protein
- Don’t overeat
Notice a common theme here? One of the goals of a pre long run dinner is to avoid foods that can cause GI distress on your long run. Overeating can cause your stomach to feel heavy the next morning, while food poisoning can set you up for an all-around crappy run (pun intended).
To avoid GI distress, you should avoid certain foods the night before a long run. While these foods vary from individual to individual, there are common culprits. Know what foods irritate you and avoid them the night before a long run – save them for dinner after you’ve done your long run.
Foods to Avoid the Night Before a Long Run:
- Sugary refined carbs – you’re eating this meal once a week, so don’t fill it with non-nutritious foods
- Beans and other legumes
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Fatty cuts of beef or other meats – animal fats can irritate sensitive stomachs
Sample Pre Long Run Dinners:
- Brown rice risotto (leave out the cheese if sensitive or use a low lactose cheese such as goat cheese)
- Roasted chicken and potato
- Fish and brown rice
- Stuffed baked potatoes (like these salmon stuffed ones)
- Whole grain or quinoa pastas with pesto and chicken
The most important rule: find what works for you! Experiment and find what meal leaves you feeling energized and your stomach feeling calm on your run.
Are you trying to figure out your training nutrition and how to maximize energy and minimize GI distress on your long runs? Topics including what to eat before a long run, how to fuel during, and whole food alternatives to gels are covered in my Fuel Your Fastest Running E-Course. Sign up now and receive eight video modules!
What do you eat the night before your long run?
How far are you running for your long run this week?
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