the worst marathon nutrition mistakes you can make

Marathon nutrition is one of the three most important things you want to get right when training and racing in a marathon. (The other two are your training plan and your mental training.)

I’ve come to realize that there are a couple of common mistakes that marathoners make while training for a marathon and especially during that week to two weeks before their marathon race! 

Today I want to share the most common nutrition mistakes I have seen runners make after coaching many marathoners throughout the years and seeing some of their struggles and downfalls but also celebrating so many of their wins!

Here's the thing.

Your marathon nutrition is something that is in your control! 

It's not an unknown like the weather or what the runner in front of you is going to do.

Therefore, it's really worth your time to look at and learn from what works and what doesn't work for you when it comes to your own marathon nutrition habits and strategy! 

*Related: Common Running Mistakes and Simple Fixes to Run Stronger

Most common marathon nutrition mistakes

1. Not utilizing the aid of an energy drink. 

I’ve talked extensively on how beneficial and necessary finding the right energy drink is for a marathon runner.

It is the fastest way for us to absorb energy and replace energy stores, before, during, and after a run! They help us to avoid hitting “the wall”, keep us feeling energized, and help to set us up for another great run following a long run!

However there are so many runners who still “wing it”, only drink water, or are simply unaware of the benefits. 

Even Zersenay Tadese one of the elite runners who competed in Nike’s first Breaking 2 Marathon didn’t even drink water during his marathoners. This was one of the controllable factors that Nike honed in on to try to get him sub-2 marathon ready. 

If you are training for a marathon but haven’t considered an energy drink, I have a free downloadable energy drink cheat sheet that you can use to find a great one for yourself.

Here is where you can find that resource and the page that I wrote on all about energy drinks for marathoners! 

Also, if you have tried a few energy drinks and just have not found one that you really enjoy, I encourage you to keep looking and try a few more. 

Having an option of an energy drink is a very easy way to supplement your marathon nutrition. 

Marathon Nutrition Mistakes Not Using Energy Drink

2. Not having a plan. 

Whether you are training or you are in the final weeks before a marathon, you need a plan! It can be as detailed or as simple as you want but having a plan will kick your nutrition up and into gear! 

Here are some things you may want to plan out:

  • Shopping list of foods that you need to stock up on! 
  • Menu plan for the week (or for the final weeks leading up to race day) (Here is a sample carbo-loading menu plan.)
  • Recipes ready (and foods needed on your shopping list)
  • Breakfast foods thought out, foods purchased (Here are some great breakfasts for runners that you can even make ahead of time!)
  • Do you have enough of your energy drink to get you through your training or until race day?
  • Do you want to prep any foods ahead of time for the fridge, freezer or pantry? (Don't forget snacks!) Those final weeks are busy but even when you are running long runs on the weekend, time gets away from you! 

Here is a page I wrote on meal prep ideas for runners for the week before a marathon although you could use it at any point during your marathon training or long distance running! 

Marathon Nutrition Mistakes Not Having a Plan

3. Not carbo-loading. 

For a marathoner, carbo-loading is a very smart move!

Most runners, especially those who have time goals that they want to achieve, simply cannot store enough carbohydrates to power their entire marathon!

Therefore, marathoners should carbo-load (take in more carbohydrates than they normally do) in order to super-compensate their limiting carbohydrate stores. 

Carbo-loading though will take some planning and a bit of research in order to implement accurately for your goals, your fitness, and your goal race pace.

I help you come up with your own personalized carbo-loading plan in the EAT LIKE A MARATHONER Nutrition Program which is a perfect resource for a marathoner during and especially in the final 2 weeks of marathon training! 

You can start with this in-depth post on carbo-loading though for this phase of your marathon journey!

Marathon Nutrition Mistakes Not Carbo Loading

4. Not planning a pre-race meal. 

Please don’t wait until the day before your marathon race to consider what to eat for your pre-race meal.

Be intentional about what you are putting in your body!

Consider your carbo-loading needs.

Eat foods that you know fuel you, and leave you feeling good and energized!

Avoid trying new foods! 

And plan appropriately as to when you should be eating that meal (not too soon or too late!) depending on when your marathon starts!

These are all topics that we go through in EAT LIKE A MARATHONER but again, it’s all about having a plan and executing it! 

Marathon Nutrition Mistakes Not Having a Pre Race Meal

5. Not eating a small breakfast of some sort when training (i.e. before a long run) and on race day. 

As a long distance runner, you really shouldn’t be heading out the door without eating something.

Understandably, some runners cannot handle food in their stomach while they are running. In this case, your energy drink is your friend!

If you can handle something solid, or you have the time, always try to eat a little before every long run and before your race itself.

If you are able, consider bringing some food along with you on your run, planted along your route, or in your FlipBelt, or by having a generous friend deliver it to you along your way.

Fueling can make or break your long distance run, so always think ahead and be prepared! (Here is a page how to re-fuel and what to eat during a long run!)

Marathon Nutrition Mistakes Not Eating a Breakfast

To Recap:

The 5 nutrition mistakes that I have noticed many marathoners making are: 

  1. Not utilizing their energy drink
  2. Not having a plan
  3. Not carbo-loading
  4. Not planning a pre-race meal and eating for performance
  5. Not eating a small breakfast of some sort

I think the theme here was to always be prepared! Solid advice! :)

What do you struggle with or need to work on the most in terms of your marathon nutrition? 

If you really want to learn more about your marathon nutrition and develop your own personalized plan, be sure to check out my Eat Like a Marathoner Training + Racing Nutrition Program

It is a tool that you will find yourself using and going back to again and again! 

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