How do I eat for a race at night?
"I'm training for a race that starts at 6:00 at night. All of my long runs have been in the mornings, so I'm not sure how to eat. How should I plan my meals for race day since it's at night?"
Simple! Eat dinner for breakfast.
A Golden Rule of sport nutrition training is to never try something new on race day. Which means that training runs and meals are planned to mimic race day. When a race starts at 6 pm and longer training runs are done in the morning, one option would be to eat breakfast before morning training runs, and then carry this over to breakfast for dinner at 4 or 5 pm on race day. However, breakfast for dinner on race day may be a little difficult to implement. A better option is to train with dinner for breakfast. This allows for a more nutrient-dense pre-run meal to support performance during training runs and it is more likely to transition into a reasonable pre-race meal.
Shift away from “breakfast foods”
It may seem odd at first, but it is important to realize that shifting the focus away from “breakfast foods” is better for your exercise performance and overall health. Traditionally, breakfast foods in the United States are heavily processed and consist of refined grains, sugar and inflammatory processed meats. When attempting an unprocessed breakfast that is adequate enough to sustain energy during long training runs and the day ahead, the options are lacking. Eggs are ideal, but what goes with an eggs breakfast that is not processed? Black beans or pinto beans along side eggs, salsa and avocado is a well-balanced breakfast option, but beyond this the options are somewhat limited. Opening the kitchen door to dinner-type foods at breakfast shifts the mindset to unprocessed, nutrient-dense options that support overall health and lead to gains in running performance.
Additionally, in the case of an evening run where dinner-like foods are likely to be more accessible, training with dinner-like foods before morning runs allows for experimentation prior to race day.
Some delicious ideas
When transitioning to new pre-workout meals and a different food selection at breakfast, planning ahead is essential. Choose one or two new ideas each week. Here are some delicious ideas to get you started.
- A simple way to implement dinner for breakfast is to use leftovers for dinner. Whatever you made last night can simply be warmed up and eaten before heading out the door for a run.
- Whole grain toast with natural nut butter and banana slices or a peanut butter and pear slices sandwich are quick and easily implemented any time of day.
- Soup for breakfast is very nourishing and is a traditional breakfast in many cultures. Consider making a large pot of soup on Sunday to provide for quick weekday breakfast meals. To provide optimal nutrition the soup should contain plenty of vegetables, protein-dense options such as tofu, poultry or ground grass-fed red meat with carbohydrate from unprocessed foods, such as sweet potatoes, turnips, butternut squash, peas, lentils, brown rice or quinoa.
Additionally, here are few dinner-like breakfast options:
- Skillet breakfast with diced sweet potato, carrots, bell pepper ground turkey or ground tofu, seasoned with olive oil and dry rosemary; get a recipe here.
- Ground pork seasoned with sage and nutmeg formed into patties and served with cooked apples seasoned with cinnamon and ginger
- Egg frittata with sliced tomatoes and a bowl of fruit sprinkled with unsweetened shredded coconut and sliced almonds
Experiment with various pre-race meals and snacks before training runs to prepare for race day. Take the opportunity to try non-breakfast foods at breakfast and before training runs to see how it impacts your energy during runs and throughout the day.
Please remember that the information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for personalized nutrition advice or healthcare. Never disregard medical or nutritional advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read or accessed through this article.
Hana A. Feeney, MS, RD is an open-minded, progressive dietitian that blends evidence based nutritional science with intuitive eating and cutting-edge functional medicine. Hana specializes in sport nutrition, digestive health, fertility, hormonal health and eating disorders. Visit http://www.NourishingResults.com to explore, read, cook and reach out! Contact Hana directly by phone at 520-429-3418 or via email at Hana@NourishingResults.com.