ask the nutritionist: marathon nutrition II

I’m so glad you all enjoyed the last Marathon Nutrition post on Hydrating! It was great to hear from all the runners out there! :) This week it’s all about how and what to eat prior to your marathon (or other long, intense race).

Eating for a marathon can be hard to balance at times but with a few simple tips, you can be fueling for your running best!


Week Before Marathon:

  • Time to start increasing carbohydrates a bit – you want carbohydrates to make up about 60-70%
  • If you have been trying to lose weight throughout your training – and not replacing all of the calories that you are burning off –  this is the time to increase calories a bit to ensure you are getting enough energy

Day Before Marathon and Day Of:

  • Continue to increase carbohydrates to about 60-70%
  • Decrease gassy foods
  • Eliminate anything that might cause an upset stomach (like dairy, greasy foods, etc.)
  • Eliminate alcohol
  • Eat meals you’ve eaten before throughout training! This is not the time to try something new!
  • Increase fluids so you go into the race hydrated
  • Breakfast should be about 200 grams of carbohydrates

During Marathon:

  • Eat high glucose food like gels, gatorade, etc. so that your body can use the fuel right away
  • Again, SO IMPORTANT to train with whatever you are going to use that dayso you know how your body handles it

After Marathon:

  • Important to have a meal/meals that include protein and carbohydrate after race
  • Continue to hydrate with water! (I think a lot of marathoners enjoy a drink after a race, anyone?)
  • I don’t know about you, but I would definitely treat myself for running that far! :)

Runners – what would you add?

Up Next:

  • Sample Meal Plan


  1. says

    great tips! i do think though that you need to be careful about the ‘increasing the calories’ bit. i’m training for a marathon now (it’s in 3 wks) and haven’t actively been trying to lose weight throughout the process, but i probably have. i just know i can’t personally eat when i’m not hungry…so for me this would be challenging. how would you recommend doing this? especially if you haven’t been keeping track of calories at all?

    • Emily says

      Well, it is kind of directed towards people who are actively restricting calories, but if you have lost some weight and aren’t trying to I would make sure that all of your meals contain some calorie dense foods (like peanut butter, olive oil, avocado, etc.) since it sounds like you can’t really add in an extra snack or two. Does that answer your question?

  2. says

    Great tips — definitely eat what you’ve been eating throughout your training — which can be hard for an out of town race when you have to maybe rely on restaurant food for the dinner the night before.

    • Emily says

      Great question!
      Our bodies are able to use carbohydrates much easier than fats and proteins so when you are running such a LONG race, you want your body to have plenty of carbohydrates stored up to use quickly for energy! (Which is why you eat/drink high glucose foods during the race)
      Recently, the whole gorge yourself on pasta notion has been replaced with the recommendation to increase the overall percentage of carbohydrates in your daily diet a few days prior.
      Although, whenever I eat a lot of pasta I still say I’m carbo-loading. :)
      Hopefully that answers your question!

  3. says

    Great advice thank you. I’m not up to marathon distance (and have promised myself I never will!) but I run 10ks and did my first half-marathon last year. My race breakfast is always a bagel with cream cheese – and I think it’s become a bit of a superstition now!


  4. says

    As a new runner who is training for a half marathon, THANK YOU. I really have no idea how to fuel my body before/during and after such a long run so I will definitely take away some good information from this one…Thanks Emily!

  5. says

    i definitely think it’s key not to change things drastically during the week of the race/day before. i definitely try to eat enough carbs, etc. but i also try not to stuff myself. i eat until im full, stay hydrated, and come prepared with gels. i think its easy to think you need to eat a ton before a race, but for me, i just eat my carbs until im full. great post!

  6. says

    Great tips, Emily! I never realized how important the post-race meal was until I took a sports nutrition class this semester. What we eat after an intense workout affects our body’s ability to store glycogen in the liver and muscles, which ultimately affects how long we can run. Carbohydrates are essential because they increase the body’s ability to store glycogen, which is a good thing! I think back to the days when I used to exercise for hours, only to refuel with carrot sticks afterwards. Not smart! Now I always make sure I have a hefty snack in my gym bag, just in case I can’t eat a full meal after I work out. :-)

    • Emily says

      Thank you for you expertise knowledge Sara! That is cool that they offered a sports nutrition class, I don’t think we had one of those when I was in school.

    • Emily says

      Lindsay –
      Sorry I didn’t explain that! If you check the nutrition facts on foods or look them up (say for a banana) and look under “Total Carbohydrate” you will see the grams listed.

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