Nutrition for Runners before a marathon race

Nutrition for runners is highly important especially when it comes down to race day. What you put into your body will directly affect your performance.

If you have put in the required training, then what will make or break your marathon race can be determined by your mental strength and your nutrition!

Don’t let your nutrition get in the way of stopping you from meeting your goals!

You need to nail it in that final week before your marathon and I am going to share how to do that with this week-before nutrition guideline!

On this page we are going to talk about:

  • Mistakes runners make in their nutrition before race day
  • Tips to help you be successful the week before your race
  • How to eat the week before your race
  • How to eat 3 days before your race
  • What you should eat the day before your race
  • What you should eat the day of your race
  • What you should eat the days following your race so that you can recover quickly!

Let's get started!

A Big Mistake Runners Can Make in Their Nutrition before Race Day

One of the biggest mistakes that a runner can make is to start a new “diet”, style of eating or even just trying new foods right before a race.

This is not recommended being that your body won’t be used to utilizing the new “diet” that you have just started, to meet your needs. Even if you are trying to eat “healthier”. 

There is always an adjustment period that you body makes when it you begin eating or trying new foods.

This should be done during your marathon training.

Remember that the key to almost anything is consistency.

Figure out what your body responds well to while you are training so that you can have a solid nutrition plan during the week before your marathon. 

For example, if you think the week before a marathon is a good time to up your fruits and veggie intake, think again!

Fruits and vegetables have a lot of fiber that can make you feel bloated, gassy and uncomfortable.

If you are not used to eating a lot of fruit and vegetables then don’t start now. If you are then great! Continue to do so. Your body is already used to all the fiber!

The key is to stick to what you have been eating and drinking while training and hopefully it will have been a good balance of what you should be eating as a runner.

It’s your best bet.

You have hopefully set yourself up though and are implementing good nutrition for runners along the way.

Here are 5 more common marathon nutrition mistakes you might be making while training!

So the main goal of this week is to focus on eating a high carbohydrate diet (carbohydrates are easily digested and therefore is not a huge “diet” shift especially since you have probably been on a high carbohydrate diet throughout your training.

You will still probably want to up your consumption of carbohydrates during this week in what marathoners call carbo-loading! 

If you would like a more personalized nutrition and carbo-loading  plan for this week before your race, and want specifics on how to nutritionally prep for your marathon then I highly recommend our 9 Step Marathon Nutrition Prep Plan + our 2 Step Plan to implement the week before you marathon which is all included in Eat Like a Marathoner.

Here are some quick tips on how to crush your marathon nutrition this week

1. Come up with a menu plan. 

It can be very specific including everything down to the snacks you eat or just an idea list of foods!

It will save you time, energy, and set you up for a successful week.

Here is a sample 3-Day Carbo-Loading Menu Plan that might give you some inspiration! 

2. Do a quick shopping trip once you know what you want to be eating during this week.

Only buy food that you will be eating this week.

Don’t tempt yourself by picking up things that are going to be screaming at you to eat all week and don’t serve your running or carbo-loading goals.

3. Prep your foods as much as possible.

Maybe you can prep your oatmeal for the week, or make a snack bin of only the foods you are allowed to snack on during this week.

Here are some marathon meal prep ideas that you can include in your nutrition for runners plan the week before your race! 

Let’s get into specifics now on what the nutrition for runners should look like and how to eat the week before your race breaking it down into the week before, 3 days before, the day before, race day, and then after the race!

a Before, During, and After NUTRITION FOR RUNNERS Marathon Race Guidelines

Nutrition for Runners week before marathon

1. Begin carbo-loading.

Here are the guidelines on carbo-loading before a marathon. 

In a nutshell, you want to focus on eating lots of high carbohydrate complex foods.

In the EAT LIKE A MARATHONER Nutrition Course you have options to choose between following a 5 day or a 1 day plan and then we develop your carb loading plan down to your pre-race meal based off of your body specifics, gender, and goal race pace.

If you already have access to the Plan then begin implementing that 2 Step plan during this week!

2. Keep eating a balanced diet.

Don’t try any new diets or foods.

Focus on eating those foods that make you feel good, that aren’t very high in fiber and try to avoid diary such as cheese as these can be hard on your digestive system.

3. Make sure your pantry and fridge are stocked with healthy carbohydrate loading foods.

Come up with a simple menu, buy some snacks, wash your veggies and fruits.

Think of ways that you can prepare for a successful week of eating before your marathon.

4. Be very aware of how much you are drinking.

It can be detrimental going into a marathon even semi-dehydrated.

Come up with a solid game plan of how you will get your water in throughout your day and then implement with no exceptions.

Nutrition for runners 3 days before a race

1. Stay away from fatty, fried, dairy products like milk and cheese.

These will have a negative affect on your running and digestion.

2. Try to avoid eating large amounts of protein.

You still need your recommended daily amount just don’t go over that amount. Your body needs to be focusing on storing your carbohydrates.

3. Keep up your carbo-loading plan if you are following a 5 day plan.

However you could begin a 3 day carbo-loading plan at this point.

4. Keep hydrating!

What to eat the day before a marathon

1. Drinking fluids, most importantly water, is crucial in nutrition for runners! 

It is also good to be drinking something that contains electrolytes such as your energy drink – the necessary ions (sodium & potassium) that our bodies will lose during running through sweat loss and large intakes of water.

2. Keep your focus on eating high-carbohydrate meals and snacks.

3. Eat your pre-race meal and make sure it is high in carbs. 

Aim for about 150-300 grams of carbohydrates in this meal (which is a lot!) it will help to super compensate your glycogen stores leading into your morning marathon. 

Here is everything you need to know about what your pre-race meal should consist of! Also, here are 4 pre-race dinner meal ideas that would be great the night before a marathon! 

What to eat on marathon race day

1. Upon awakening be sure to drink water. You probably have not had any water all night and can therefore be dehydrated. This is a key step!

2. Eat very light foods.

Eat those which you know won’t bother your stomach.

If your marathon is first thing in the morning then drink your energy drink and keep your nutrition to mainly liquids.

The liquid energy will provide you with faster glucose absorption. 

The important thing is to not start your race on an empty tank! 

If your race is later in the day (4 hours or so after you wake up) then it's a good idea to get some solid foods in your system. (Here are some pre-race breakfast meal ideas! that provide great nutrition for runners leading into their race!)

Some races provide snacks at their aid stations such as bananas or energy bars but don't count on it especially if you aren't used to these foods while running.  

3. If you are eating solid foods then try to avoid high fat foods and proteins as these digest slowly in your stomach.

Stick solely to carbohydrates leading into your race.

Usually marathons are scheduled in the early morning but this can be tricky if you have a night marathon.

If your marathon is at night then it is best to consume your official pre-race meal at least 3-4 hours before the start time.

4. Keep drinking fluids! 

If you are running a long distance such as the half marathon or full marathon it is important to drink water and an energy drink such as Gatorade that most races offer.

This is to help ward off a serious condition called hyponatremia which can be a deadly condition that affect runners who are drinking too much water and not providing their bodies with electrolytes that they are losing when they run and that are found in energy drinks

Related: The Best Energy Chews for Marathoners! 

What to eat after a race

1. Eat something high in carbs as soon as possible at the finish line or at least within 30 minutes of finishing the race. 

I always have a bag of gummy bears waiting for me after a marathon race – only because I love them and they are added motivation to get to the finish line!

The quickest foods to instantly boost your carbohydrate stores is to eat foods in the moderate to high glycemic index range.

While you generally want to avoid these foods as they spike your blood sugar levels, your body will need them at the end of a marathon as your blood sugar will be very low at that point and they will help to really jump start the recovery process.

Examples of foods in the moderate to high glycemic index range are: fruit juices, white rice, breads, bagels, cereal, and potatoes.

2. Wait to eat protein until your body has had time to at least cool down and begin to relax. 

Protein will help to begin the muscle repair process.

Take the yogurt or milk offered at the finish line. Liquid protein (such as a protein shake) can help your body recover it’s glycogen stores at an even faster race then consuming carbohydrates alone so definitely be sure to incorporate it.

3. Keep taking in carbohydrates throughout the rest of the day. 

Do this by eating a high carbohydrate meal or if this affects your stomach then spread out your eating into lighter high carbohydrate snacks at regular intervals (every 2 hours) for the remainder of the day. 

4. Keep drinking fluids! 

You can even continue to drink your energy drink as it has a lot of carbohydrates that will be absorbed rapidly to help replace your depleted glycogen stores.

Here is a list of 10 foods and activities that you also might want to consider including in your nutrition for runners plan the week after you marathon! 

Want to create your own personalized marathon nutrition prep plan? This is your ultimate guide as a marathoner!

The Ultimate Guide to eating and fueling for marathon training and racing success! + get access and develop your own personalized marathon nutrition plan to implement before your marathon with our 9 STEP Prep Plan!

Get access to the EAT LIKE A MARATHONER Nutrition Course here!

Pages Related to Nutrition for Runners: 

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