Your marathon training will be for nothing if you don’t prepare well, so you might be wondering what to eat the day before a marathon. Your best bet is carb-loading.
Whether you’re training for a half-marathon or a full marathon, it’s normal to feel a little nervous as the big race day draws near and find yourself panicking about what to eat the day before a marathon. During your final hours, your best bet is to consume carbohydrates for energy and to keep hydrated.
We source most of our energy from carbohydrates. About 85 to 95% of your calories should be from carbohydrates during the last few days before your race.
This practice is known as “carb-loading.” Some runners eat rice for all three meals before a race. However, you can mix things up a bit by eating carb-heavy foods such as:
- Juice or sports drinks
- Cooked veggies (but aware of the fiber content)
- Roasted and baked sweet and regular potatoes
Instead of loading up on a heavy-carb dinner the night before the race, try eating your heaviest carb meal for lunch the day before. This way, you can ensure enough time for your body to digest that food. After, have a lighter carb-rich dinner and a light-carb snack before bed.
Please note that while focusing mainly on carb-rich foods, don’t neglect other foods that provide a more balanced diet, such as foods high in protein.
Another thing to keep in mind is that carb-loading isn’t for everyone and can have a few disadvantages, such as weight gain, digestive discomfort, changes in blood sugar, weakness, and lightheadedness.
Breakfast On Race Day
Your pre-race breakfast is essential. Ideally, you’ll wake up about three to four hours before the start of the race.
For breakfast, you’ll want to top off those invaluable glycogen stores with a meal that has mostly carbs with moderate fat and protein. This meal can sustain you during the race but won’t weigh you down.
You’ll also want to eat one to four hours before your race consuming about one to four grams of carbs per kilogram of your body weight.
Here are a couple of breakfast suggestions.
- A turkey sandwich on wheat with spinach and bacon
- Oatmeal with peanut butter, raisins, and banana and sweetened with cinnamon, honey, and a pinch of salt
- A bagel with honey, peanut butter, raisins, and banana
- Two pieces of toast with honey, raisins, and banana with juice or a sports drink
- Your favorite granola bar and one banana
There are other practical preparations you should make before race day, such as:
- Ensure you have anti-chafing run attire
- Bracelets or baggage tags you might need for services or restricted areas at the event
- Extra clothes like rain gear or warm clothing if the climate’s too cold or wet
- Extra running shoes
- Energy gels
- A wristwatch with GPS
Be sure to arrive at the event at least an hour early so you’ll have time to do everything you need, such as check-in and use the restroom.
According to the Institute of Medicine, you should remain hydrated for the days before your race, drinking at least 72 ounces of water per day for women and 104 ounces per day for men. This will help your muscles say loose and help prevent cramping.
Be careful not to go too much beyond these guidelines. Remember, most of your food will also provide hydration, and overhydration can be just as bad as dehydration in the long run.
It helps to know what terrain you will be running on before the race, such as if there will be hills and other elevations. This can instruct your training under similar conditions, thus making the race much more accessible.
It would help if you also had a plan for weather conditions and any illness or injury you’re dealing with or may have to deal with.
Make mental notes of where the porta-potties and water stations are.
Have Your Mantra Prepared
When the going get’s tough, having a personalized mantra you repeat to yourself helps tremendously. Think of something short, to the point that be said in one breath, such as “Run strong!” Repeating the mantra during your exhale can help you breathe much better.
The day before your race, you want to take a break from running. It’s okay to do light stretches, but not heavy stretching, just enough to keep your body loose and limber.
Avoid activities such as saunas and hot tubs that will make you sweat a lot. You don’t want to burn carbs or lose any vital sodium you’ll need for your race.
Relax And Unwind
Perhaps the best preparation is to relax and unwind after weeks of training. Ensure you get eight hours of rest the night before the race.
Also, avoid anything that can spike your adrenaline. You want your pre-race day to be one of the easiest, stress-free days you’ve ever had.
If you liked this post, you might also find our explainer on how long do I need to train for a marathon helpful.