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Ask the Elites: What Do You Eat the Night Before a Big Race?

Ask the Elites: What Do You Eat the Night Before a Big Race?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - 10:05pm
what elite runners eat before dinner

Most of our panel eats pasta before big races. Photo by Flickr user Luca Nebuloni. License

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Kristin Johnson of GRC: I typically eat pasta with some sort of protein the night before a big race. If I'm home I usually cook my mom's spaghetti and meatball recipe because it's one of my favorite foods. 

Ryan Witters of GRC: I'll typically eat the standard runner-carbo-load dinner.  Some form of pasta, preferably spaghetti with meat sauce.  I wish I had a more interesting answer to give you.  I did have a Kenyan teammate in college who would drink a glass of milk at dinner the night before every race.  I've never tried it, but maybe he's on to something.

David Magida of Reebok Spartan Race Pro Team: The night before a big race I try to eat healthy. Nothing too big but something that will fuel my muscles and cells. Note that dinner the night before a race should be early so it’s digested and out of you before the race. A personal favorite of mine is Chicken Parmesan on a bed of spaghetti. Good carbs, protein, easy to digest. And delicious. The morning of the race I lean toward a bagel with peanut butter and jelly and a banana dipped in honey. I like to eat it about 2.5 to 3 hours before the race, again leaving me plenty of time to digest.

Katie Sheedy of Capital Area Runners: Pasta party! The night before I race I always eat pasta with tomato sauce chased down by lots of water and electrolytes- a routine I've followed since track meets in high school!

Susanna Sullivan of Capital Area Runners:  I'm not very picky, but I like to have pasta or rice with protein and a vegetable.

Patrick Fernandez of Capital Area Runners: For me it depends on the distance. For a half marathon or marathon I'll usually have a carb heavy meal such as pasta, although just enough so that I feel full, since ideally the majority of my carb intake took place the few days leading up to the race. The meal the night before is just a little something to top off the tanks. For shorter races I usually eat a meal that is a little more balanced in terms of carbs vs proteins, something like a chicken teriyaki bowl with brown rice or a hearty Subway sandwich.  I also try to eat a good amount of fruit throughout the day before a race as an additional healthy source of carbs.

Jeff Duyn of the MCRRC Competitive Master Team: In general, I eat very healthy food, and I don't deviate from that the night before a race. Main thing for me is to avoid large portions or eating too late in the evening. For marathon, I adjust my diet (carb deprivation/ carb loading) 4-5 days before the race. I also avoid coffee/alcohol during these days. I do drink coffee the morning of the race to jump start digestive tract in order to avoid bathroom breaks during race.

Randy Howard Smith of MCRRC Competitive Open Team: I would say I am more concerned about not eating anything to heavy then about what the specific meal is. That said a typical night before meal is Roasted Chicken and root vegetable medley. Of course I wash it all down with two beers!

Lisa Chilcote of MCRRC Competitive Master Team and co-coordinator: Protein and sweet potato.

Dionis Gauvin of MCRRC Competitive Open Team: I eat what I usually eat for dinner.

Christina Papoulias of MCRRC Competitive Open Team:  Before a marathon, I’ll do the traditional carb loading dinner of pasta with some protein.  Occasionally I’ll add in a beer for good luck (and added carbs!).  For shorter distances, I don’t veer too far from what I’d eat for dinner any other night.

Kristi Markowicz of Pacers New Balance Team: "Usually pasta, but as I've gotten older, I'll eat almost anything.  I have a large family to cook for (my husband and four kids), so it often depends on what's in the fridge and what I have on hand.  I used to be very superstitious.  Throughout high school and college, I had to have tortellini with a white sauce before big races.  Now I don't take that part as seriously.  As long as I have a nutritiously balanced meal, I'm happy!"

About the Author

Jamie Corey is a RRCA certified coach and author of Jamie has completed eight marathons, several triathlons and is currently training for her first Ironman. When she isn't trying to find the best bagel in town, she is usually tweeting at @TheRunster.