What Should I Eat and Drink the Day Before a Long Run?

Chicken pasta in bowl, close-up
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"I'm training for a marathon and I'm not sure what I should be eating the day before my long runs. Should I be carbo-loading?"

Your nutrition and hydration during the days leading up to your long run is critical to your performance and comfort.

The two days before your long run (and your half or full marathon) should be high-carb days. You should make sure that you increase the percentage of carbs in your diet, not the overall calories.

Carbo-loading doesn't mean that you should eat three plates of pasta for dinner!  Aim for at least 65% of calories from carbs during those days. You can still have some protein but, for example, instead of having chicken with rice, have rice with chicken. Pasta, steamed or boiled rice, potatoes, fruits, starchy vegetables, and breads are good carb sources. If you stick to a gluten-free diet, here are some excellent gluten-free foods for runners.  Avoid gas-forming foods like beans and any type of food that may upset your stomach or can interfere with sleep.

Don't Forget About Hydration

Plain water is fine to drink to make sure you stay hydrated. You don't need to be drinking sports drinks the day before a long run. You can check your hydration by doing a urine test. If your urine is light yellow like lemonade, you're well-hydrated. If it's a dark yellow color, you're dehydrated and should keep drinking more water.

Try to limit your consumption of alcohol the day before a long run. Not only does alcohol dehydrate you, but it can also prevent you from getting a good night's sleep.

What's For Breakfast?

For breakfast before your long run, focus again on getting mostly carbs and some protein. Pick foods that are easily digestible.

Some examples of good pre-long run fuel include: a bagel with peanut butter; a banana and an energy bar; or a bowl of cold cereal or oatmeal with a cup of milk. If you find yourself starting to get hungry not too far into your run, make sure you add some more calories to your breakfast next time.

Make sure you don't overhydrate the morning of your long run, so you can avoid having to make a pit stop. You should drink 16 to 24 oz of (non-caffeinated) fluid 1 hour before your workout or race. Stop drinking after that, and keep emptying your bladder. You can drink another 4 to 8 oz of fluid about 10 minutes before you start your long run, so that you're hydrated when you begin.

Nothing New On Race Day

Keep in mind that your long runs are your best opportunity to figure out what foods you should eat before your race day. Think of long runs as your dress rehearsal for your half or full marathon. You'll want to figure out what works for you during your training, so you're not experimenting with new foods on race day.


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