What To Eat the Night Before a Long Run

If you’re wondering what to eat the night before a long run, read this post for a complete breakdown!

Fueling your body before a long run is important to give your body the energy it needs in order to perform its best. Proper fueling will help ensure you stock your glycogen stores to avoid hitting the wall and bonking during your long run or race.

It also helps spare some carbohydrates for those long efforts and maintain your blood sugar.

Overall, you will feel much better if you properly understand what should you eat the night before a long run.

What to Eat The Night Before a Long Run

Many clients come to us asking, What should I eat the night before a long run? It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the easier and simpler, the better!

When deciding what to eat the night before a long run, you’ll ultimately want to choose something familiar to you and something that is high carb, low fat, and low fiber so as not to sit too heavy on the stomach or cause any unwanted GI issues.

Similar ideas for what to eat before running in the morning too – just likely on a smaller scale.

Let’s break each of these down.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for endurance exercise, such as running. Carbohydrates are also more easily and quickly digested than protein or fat.

closeup of different types of pasta

When choosing carbohydrate foods prior to a long run, you’ll want to choose items that are lower in fiber.

High fiber carbohydrates such as whole grains or beans take longer to digest and are harder on the GI system.

Eating carbohydrates the night before a long run helps to provide fuel for the muscles and the brain – this is why pasta for runners is so well-known.

The main focus of the meal the night before a long run should be carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, fruit, etc. Here’s more information on the best foods for carb loading.

Protein

Eating some low-fat protein the night before a long run helps to ensure fullness and may help to minimize muscle breakdown.

Your protein choice may include milk, yogurt, protein powder, meat, fish, eggs, seafood, etc.

If you follow a vegan diet (check out our meal plan for a vegan ultramarathon runner), be careful with including too many high-fiber protein sources, like beans, lentils, excess whole grains and raw vegetables.

Fat

You can also eat some fat, depending on personal preference and tolerance to these foods. You’ll want to keep the portion size small to moderate.

This may include butter, cheese, avocado, nuts or nut butters, etc.

clear jars with peanut butter

Similar to protein, these foods can help you to feel full and satisfied for longer than carbohydrates alone so they are good to add in moderation, but be careful not to overdo it.

Fruits and Vegetables

You can eat some fruits and/or vegetables the night before a long run, depending on personal preference and tolerance to these foods.

You’ll likely want to choose lower-fiber vegetables such as carrots, spinach, or zucchini.

Eating cooked vegetables rather than raw will also help with digestion, and likely cause less bloating and flatulence.

So, What Should I Eat the Night Before a Long Run?

Similar to what you may eat the morning of a long run, the night before you want to aim for high carb, moderate protein, low fat and low fiber.

Since there is more time between the meal the night before and the actual workout, you can eat more than you might the morning of.

Again, you’ll want to experiment with this meal and have a go-to meal (or several options) for the night before a long run that you feel confident with.

Some of our favorites include:

white plate with chicken, potatoes, green beans

Meal Examples for What to Eat the Night Before a Big Run

All of these are also great examples of what to eat the night before a half marathon, marathon or other big race.

  • White pasta with marinara sauce, grilled chicken, and maybe some low-fiber veggies, breadsticks, and water
  • Baked potato with lean barbecue pork, a side of fruit and a beverage
  • Grilled fish with rice, low-fiber veggies, a dinner roll, and water
  • White tortilla with chicken or beans, white rice, cooked peppers and mashed avocado
  • Pancakes with maple syrup, scrambled eggs with spinach, and a glass of low-fat milk
  • Peanut butter and jelly on bread or a bagel, a banana, and some low-fat yogurt

Remember, it’s important to find what works best for you and personal preferences play a big role in deciding what to eat the night before a long run. If it works for you, stick to it!

What if you are eating out?

If you are eating out the night before a long run, you’ll want to choose a restaurant that has easy carbohydrate options such as pasta, or a build-your-own sort of place where you can ask for specific ingredients or modify your order to fit your pre-fueling nutrition needs.

Rice, tortillas, sweet potatoes and potatoes are other great options that are typically easy enough to find at most restaurants.

What Not to Eat The Night Before a Long Run

Everyone’s body is unique and can handle different types and amounts of food before a workout.

However, in general, before a long run, you’ll want to decrease your intake of:

  • High fiber foods, such as beans, high-fiber fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds, etc. as these foods can cause GI issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, and/or diarrhea.
  • High fat foods, such as cheese, ice cream, fatty meat, avocado, nuts, and seeds.
  • Anything unfamiliar – Just like the old adage says not to try anything new on race day, don’t try anything new the night before a race either, just in case it doesn’t sit well with your stomach!

typical foods on a keto diet

These groups of foods take longer for the stomach to digest and therefore may cause GI issues.

For some people, this may just be the day or night before that they limit these foods. For others, it may be several days leading up to the long run.

If you are traveling for a race, make sure to bring some of your usual pre-workout fueling options as well as plan ahead and search the area you will be staying in to find some options for pre-run fueling.

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Sources: 

Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Mar;116(3):501-528. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2015.12.006. Erratum in: J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017 Jan;117(1):146. PMID: 26920240.

Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals, 5th ed. (2012).

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