Ever wondered what to eat the night before a Run Disney race? You’re so tempted by all the delicious options, but you also want to run the race without regret come those early morning hours of activity. Did you ever play sports as a kid and have pasta parties the night before a big game, competition or meet? Carbohydrates are key to fueling your best performance on the course. On Run Disney race weekends, pasta parties are WAY more fun than in childhood because of the culinary magic at our finger tips on Walt Disney World property! As a Dietitian and runner myself, I spend a lot of time deciding on the perfect Disney food to eat the night before a runDisney race. The hardest part about race weekend (arguably) is deciding where to eat and fuel up for the big race!
Most of us know we need carbohydrates, but many of us question WHEN and HOW MUCH to eat. When running the 5K and 10K races, there isn’t much of a need to carb load per se since it is unlikely you’ll deplete the fuel in your muscles during the time it takes to run those distances (less than 90 minutes for most). For these races, stick to your regular portions that are still carbohydrate-rich. Now’s not the time to cut carbs entirely.
For those running half and full marathons, you’ll want to start carb loading during training as a trial (4-6 weeks before the race during your longest runs), and then, with a plan, during the 2-3 days before your race. You can do this by adding a little extra carbohydrate to your diet those days like extra portions of granola, fruit, waffles, rice, etc. The night before the race is not the time to gorge yourself full, but it is time to eat a carbohydrate-rich meal (think bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.) that is also relatively low in fat and fiber (nix the greasy meat, cream sauce, salads and fried foods for this meal). Look over menus ahead of time when planning your trip to find which restaurants offer a dish that will work best for you. Use a Disney Vacation Planner to help you get your top choice advance dining reservations. Pack with you some carb-based snacks to eat during travel and touring leading up to your race like pretzels, crackers, granola bars, and fruit.
Gluten free or dairy free in Disney? No problem! Thanks to the many allergy-friendly menus at various Disney restaurants, and the new plant-based menu items added to Disney dining in parks and resorts, there are options for everyone! You’ll even find allergy-friendly snacks available in most Disney resort markets and shops in case you forget your supply at home.
My favorite pre-race allergy friendly meal is found at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante in Hollywood Studios. I love the atmosphere of this place- it’s cozy and cute for both families and couples. I love watching the chefs prepare flatbread pizzas behind the clear glass right as enter while breathing in the delicious aromas of the wood-burning ovens. The menu here is perfect for fueling for the big race. There is a nice California wine selection if you’re looking to ease pre-race jitters, but I suggest going easy on the “sauce” (limit to 1 drink) to maintain good hydration the night before a race.
There is no shortage of carbs here, typical of good Italian menus! Fresh baked bread is served with olive oil and herbs. As a gluten-free diner, my bread is delivered warm, pre-packaged and with a separate dipping plate for the oil as to prevent cross contamination with my dinner date. I like to start off my meal with a small tasting of a plant and protein combo, like the fresh mozzarella and vine-ripened tomatoes. For an entree, I enjoy the Margherita Flatbread which includes fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, mozzarella, house-made marinara sauce, and fresh basil on an allergy-friendly flatbread finished with a drizzle of balsamic and extra virgin olive oil. It’s delicious! Not to heavy but just what I need to fill my belly for a good night’s rest and rich in carbohydrates to top off glycogen stores (ie muscle fuel) for the next day.
Be careful not to stuff yourself the night before your Run Disney race. Dinner should be portion-controlled, yet carb-heavy. Eat on the early side (by 7pm) so there is plenty of time to digest. You want to wake up hungry on race day and not full from the night before. And Remember, nothing NEW around race day. Sure, the food will be different from what you’ve prepared at home, but save those new and adventurous Disney meals for after your race and stick with what you know before hand.
Don’t skip breakfast the morning of your race! Three hours before the start, eat 150 grams of carbs, like a bagel and yogurt or sports drink and oatmeal. Remember to prepare for this the night before. Since dining locations will not be open when you rise for your Run Disney race (which will be around 2-3am), make sure to pick up what you need the night before from your hotel market. You can also bring what you need from home, or order grocery delivery to your room upon arrival to your resort with your race-day must-haves for breakfast. For more on what to eat the day of your race, click here!
Here are the rest of my Top Choices for Run Disney Pre-race Dinners!
- Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, Magic Kingdom
House-made Gnocchi Primavera – Potato Gnocchi, Garden Vegetables, Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, and Romano Cheese served as is or with shrimp or grilled chicken as a protein.
*Allergy-friendly pasta available on menu.
2. Restaurant Marrakesh, Epcot’s World Showcase, Morocco
Cous Cous with Vegetables – Steamed tiny semolina pasta with vegetables
*Ask about yellow rice as an allergy-friendly substitute for cous cous.
3. Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria, Epcot’s World Showcase, Italy
Minestrone Soup – vegetable soup with pasta, followed by Penne Arrabiata – whole wheat pasta, spicy tomato, garlic, basil, and fresh mozzarella.
*Allergy-friendly pasta available on menu.
4. Yak & Yeti Restaurant, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Lo Mein served as is with vegetables – noodles, carrots, cabbage, green onions, bean sprouts, or with added protein like chicken, shrimp or tofu. *Ask about gluten-friendly rice noodles.
Roasted Vegetable Bowl – Oven roasted Kalbi marinated vegetables served with a flavorful blend of white and red quinoa, brown rice, and vegan Sriracha aioli.
5. Raglan Road, Disney Springs
Raglan Road Risotto – Asparagus and arugula pesto risotto, charred baby onions, garlic mascarpone, and pine nut crush.
6. Terralina Crafted Italian, Disney Springs
Spaghetti Pomodoro – Tomato, Basil and Garlic. Side of Roasted Potato Planks.
*Gluten-friendly pasta and bread available.
Don’t want to mess with crowds? Check out dining options at your Disney resort.
7. Turf Bar and Grill, Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
Carrot Gnocchi – Carrot Gnocchi, Sweet Peas, Oven-roasted Mushrooms, Toasted Pine Nuts, and Mushroom Sauce.
Whole-roasted Sustainable Fish – Stuffed with Fresh Herbs, Lemon, and Roasted with Fresh Citrus Salad, and Salted Potatoes.
Too many race-day nerves to sit for a table service meal? No problem- any quick service that offers lighter sandwiches on generous helpings of bread, or pasta and rice dishes, are sure to please and be served in an ideal portion size. Grab a piece of fruit when paying for your meal – often available next to the cash register- or a Mickey pretzel for a starchy add-on to top off your meal.
There you have it folks! As a dietitian and runner, I take my pre- and post- race fueling seriously, especially in Disney. With a little ahead-of-time planning, you can find the perfect meal sure to satisfy and fuel both your race AND touring plans during your Run Disney vacation!
Disclaimer: These recommendations are for the general public and do not address individual dietary needs. Considerations for therapeutic diets and specific needs should be discussed with your primary care physician and a registered dietitian.