If you’re figuring out what to eat the night before a race, you want to make sure you’re giving your body the nutrients it needs to wake up refreshed and ready to go. You also want to avoid any digestive disasters that might bother your stomach during the race or leave you feeling lethargic and bloated or absolutely ravenous.
Here are a few common mistakes you might be making, and a look at what to eat the night before a race.
Nutritional Mistakes to Avoid Making When Deciding What to Eat the Night Before a Race
1. Loading Up on Fiber
Something that can confusing to new or first-time racers is that traditional nutritional rules (ie. focusing on high-protein, whole food-heavy meals) tend to — and often should — go out the window the night before a race.
In this case, don’t go heavy on the beans and leafy greens.
“I usually recommend fiber all of the time, since it helps keep you regular and promotes heart health," Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, says. "But eating a meal with tons of fiber the night before a race can lead to stomach issues on race morning."
That doesn’t mean all veggies, but there are a few that certainly stand out, as well as beans and legumes.
“I usually suggest avoiding high-fiber foods, like beans or cruciferous veggies — broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts — the night before a race because they can make you gassy,” she says.
You’re safer with starchy veggies, like sweet potatoes. Try a baked sweet potato with some avocado and diced chicken, for example. It's plain and simple, but still flavorful.
2. Eating Fried Foods
A trip to McDonald’s should definitely not be on your mind when it comes to what to eat the night before a race.
“Fried food tends to sit in your stomach for a long time and can cause indigestion that night and the next morning,” Rizzo says. “That means that it can affect your sleep and lead to poor sleep quality."
You might even wake up feeling exhausted and cramped. And what’s more, fried food also just doesn’t do much for your body nutrition-wise, and you really need some good fuel and electrolytes the night before a race. So, you’re better off eating something healthy and freshly prepared anyway.
3. Going for Heat
On the note of avoiding digestive distress, you're better off forgoing your favorite spices the night before race day, opting for blander seasonings instead.
“Spicy food affects everyone differently, but the acidic nature of it can cause heartburn and indigestion for some people,” Rizzo says. “This can lead to an awful night’s rest and indigestion the next morning."
So, ditch the jalapeños and red peppers when choosing what to eat the night before a race. You can always have a spicy Bloody Mary and omelet once you’ve finished.
4. Eating Chocolate for Dessert
Training-friendly dessert is a nice way to end a meal, but perhaps ditch it the night before a race. Or if you do have dessert, go for some fresh fruit with Greek yogurt instead of chocolate.
“Unfortunately, chocolate has caffeine, and that caffeine may keep you up at night,” Rizzo explains.
A poor night’s sleep can mess with your stamina and endurance on race day.
“If you want dessert, go for it, but opt for one that doesn’t have chocolate,” Rizzo says.
And don’t eat it too close to bed, either.
“Try to finish eating dinner at least three hours before bed, so you have time to digest,” Rizzo says.
5. Eating Something Brand New
The night before a race is NOT the time to experiment with a new shrimp scampi dish or try a different type of cheese for the first time.
“You shouldn’t try a new food the night before a race because you don’t know how it might affect your stomach,” Rizzo says.
You could wake up with gas and abdominal pain, and you might even have allergic reactions that evening right after eating. It's better to be safe than sorry.
“Stick with something you know, like a bowl of pasta with some olive oil and veggies,” Rizzo says.
6. Not Hydrating
You’ll want to eat foods that contain electrolytes and have higher water content, like sweet potatoes and bananas, as well as drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
“Don’t overdo it and guzzle a gallon, but drink a full glass with dinner and then maybe some after dinner,” Rizzo says.
You definitely want to hydrate the night before so you wake up feeling refreshed and proactively less dehydrated.