Over the past decade, I’ve run more half-marathons, full marathons, and ulramarathons than I can honestly count. One of my favorite pre-race traditions is the dinner before the race. After about 15 races, I can tell you that I was starting to get a little tired of the usual pasta. So I decided to start exploring other options. Here’s some of my absolute favorite pre-race dinners that aren’t the typical pasta.
A few notes beforehand, though. For anything shorter than a half-marathon, I honestly don’t think you need to “carb load.” You might want to have something small after your usual dinner, like an extra bowl of oats. But for the most part, having a smart breakfast the morning of your race will be adequate. For a half-marathon, I usually do a more carb-heavy day the day before a race, and have found that this is all I need for 13.1 miles. Some people may do better with 2 days, but you definitely don’t need a full week by any means.
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For a full marathon, I recommend increasing carbs for about 4 days prior to your race. Typically, you don’t need to increase calories (until maybe the day before), but you’ll want to start slowly increasing the amount of calories that you get form carbs until the day before your race. The day before a full marathon, your goal should be that about 80% of your total calories come from carb sources. For an ultramarathon, I follow the same protocol. I’ve found that you eat a lot more during an ultra than a traditional marathon, so you don’t need to stress the carb load quite as much as you might think.
All that to say, if you’ve got a race coming up, and pasta just doesn’t sound enticing, take a look at some of these pre-race dinners.
- Loaded Baked Potato – If dairy is something that usually causes problems for you, definitely feel free to skip the cheese, butter, and sour cream, or at least go light. I usually recommend topping with some source of protein, like chicken or beef fajita along with a little butter and cheese.
- Fried Rice – I’ve had the best luck making this at some, since I have a little more control over the amount of salt and oil I use. While most people don’t consider fried rice an exceptionally “healthy” meal, a homemade version has a lot of veggies, some protein, and enough carbs to get you through your race.
- Black Bean, Rice, & Veggie Burrito – I wouldn’t necessarily go with a full Chipotle sized burrito, but black beans are a great combination of protein and carbs and usually easy to digest. Obviously, the tortilla and rice will also give you a good source of fueling as well.
- Margherita Pizza – Now a lot of people feel like pizza the night before a race might cause some GI distress, and that’s true however I’ve found that margherita pizza is lighter on cheese and sauce. So this might help make pizza a feasible option.
- Sweet Potato Skillet – If you’re like me, breakfast for dinner is always a hit. Sweet potatoes are a nice, natural carby option that will fill you up and go great with eggs, bacon, and some veggies.
- Ciabatta Sandwich – If you’re looking for something quick and simple, a sandwich always has you covered. Choosing a heartier bread option (as opposed to traditional sliced bread) like Ciabatta will help you get a few more of those precious carbs.
- Chicken Risotto – So I never know if we’re including risotto in the rice category or pasta, but it’s an option that I feel like gets overlooked. It’s delicious, easy to make, and full carbs without being overfilling like a traditional pasta.
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Of course, you can always go for the pasta. It’s easy to digest, full of carbs, and pretty damn tasty. Just know that’s not your ONLY option. If you have a go to or favorite pre-race dinner, I want to hear about it!