What to Eat the Week and Day Before a Marathon

marathon nutritionIn the week before a marathon, it's vital that you eat and drink correctly. Knowing what to eat to fuel your body before the big day can be difficult. Nutritionist Jane Nodder explains what to eat before a marathon.

One week to go!

You are so nearly there! Over the last few months, I’ve written many pages of guidance on nutritional approaches for marathon training. And so this week’s article is deliberately much shorter just to pull out a few key points to focus on in the last week before race day.

Review the previous nutrition articles in the Food and Weight loss Section to help you perform at your best or see our Marathon Training section for more marathon tips.

Here are some key points to focus on in the week before your marathon:

  • Choose your foods carefully in this period. Include plenty of nutritious foods e.g. lean meat, fish, low-fat dairy produce, fruits, vegetables and whole grain. Be careful not to add too many high fat, high sugar foods - chocolate, biscuits, cakes etc. - particularly as snacks. Keep to regular portion sizes and stick to three balanced meals a day plus two or three quality snacks as you reduce your mileage for this final week. Do not cut back too much on your energy intake.
  • Make sure you stay well-hydrated (check the colour of your urine). Water is needed to convert carbohydrates to glycogen – the fuel you’ll need to run well on marathon day. Being well hydrated may add a couple of pounds to your weight, but don’t worry – this will not affect your race. Take particular care with hydration if you’re flying to your marathon destination as flights can be dehydrating.
  • Also, if you are travelling to your race, pack plenty of healthy snacks in case you can’t find what you need locally. And if you are flying, think about taking food for the journey if you are worried about what might be available to eat. Remember to pack: energy bars, gels or other energy products, snacks such as bagels, fruit, cereal bars, nuts and seeds, sports drinks, bottled water.
  • Focus on your carbohydrate intake. You do not need to follow a classic carbohydrate loading programme, but do try to increase your intake of calories from carbohydrates to around 8-10g of carbohydrate/kg of body weight per day for this week to help maximise your glycogen stores. Include foods that are medium-low on the glycaemic index: wholemeal pasta, brown rice, fruit such as berries, apples, pears and stone fruits, green leafy vegetables, wholegrain bread, potatoes.
  • Avoid all foods that might lead to bloating, flatulence and other digestive problems during the race e.g. beans, onions, cabbage, asparagus, artichokes, deep-fried foods, fatty cuts of meat and fermented foods.

The day before your marathon

The nutritional aim of the day before your marathon is to ‘top-up’ glycogen stores. This doesn’t mean you need to eat large quantities of simple sugars. Instead:

  • Keep your last evening meal simple and do not over-eat. Stick to carbohydrate foods you know you have tolerated well in training. If you eat pasta, keep the sauce simple based on vegetables (mushrooms, spinach, parsley, basil, courgettes, thyme) and tomatoes with a little olive oil. Avoid any sauces with spices, cream and garlic! Choose pasta made with eggs to increase your protein intake and slow down the absorption of sugars. If you don’t like pasta you could base your last carbohydrate meal on brown rice, couscous, buckwheat or corn.
  • Remember to include a small amount of protein (e.g. chicken, fish or some cheese) along with your carbohydrates.
  • Finish your meal with a couple of portions of fresh fruit and a yoghurt to complement your carbohydrate intake and increase your protein, fibre and calcium levels.
  • Have water to drink and avoid alcohol and caffeine. You need to sleep as well as you can!

Check out our Marathon Training section for marathon training tips and advice. Good luck in the race!

New to the Running Bug? 

We're the online community for runners with over 65,000 members! Join today - it's free and easy - and you'll get access to all our running events, training schedules and advice, groups, blogs and forums.

JOIN THE RUNNING BUG HERE! It's free and takes just 30 seconds.

a few seconds ago