No matter if this is your first marathon or your hundredth, it’s always important to make sure that you are properly fueled. In this article, we’ll cover what to eat starting one week before running a full marathon.
If you follow these tips, you’ll help to set yourself up for success, giving your body the fuel it needs so that you can run an amazing race. Let’s get started!
One Week Before Your Race
While it’s always important to eat nutritionally sound food, it’s especially necessary the week before a marathon. The formula isn’t tricky: lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds, as well as good carbs from things like whole wheat.
If you’re a meat person like me, it will be hard to do this, but cut back slightly on protein, as it is harder for your body to digest. Turn yourself into more of an herbivore rather than an omnivore this week.
Some suggestions for good meals include whole-grain spaghetti or salmon with whole-grain rice. The idea isn’t to add tons of calories, but to make sure that more of the calories you are consuming come from carbs.
Another absolute essential is staying well hydrated. If you don’t, this could come back to bite you during the marathon. Make sure that you’re drinking when you’re thirsty. But beyond that, make it easy to get water so you don’t talk yourself out of it. Keep a glass of water on the table or your desk at all times, and keep tabs on your hydration.
The easiest way is to look at your urine when you go to the bathroom. If it’s a light straw color (it doesn’t need to be completely clear), you’re good. If not, drink some more water!
Alternatively, you can pinch the skin on the back of your hand. If it snaps back into place quickly, then you’re properly hydrated. If not, you’re likely dehydrated and should go pour yourself a glass of water.
The Night Before Your Race
Don’t forget the old adage—“Nothing new on race day.” And nothing new the night before either! Aim for healthy, easy-to-digest carbs, and avoid anything with lots of fiber like whole grain, avocados, popcorn, prunes, and almonds.
Also, definitely skip processed and fried foods as well as spicy foods. This isn’t the time to go and get really spicy Mexican or Indian food. Aim on the side of caution and opt for more bland foods over spice.
Make sure you plan this meal to deliver all the nutrients you need without anything that is going to drag your stomach down. Eat on the earlier side, and figure out a meal that is going to be high in carbs, but low in fat.
Some options include something with lots of greens, legumes, fruits, and seeds. For example, you might consider making yourself a large salad with strawberries, mandarian oranges, blueberries, chia seeds, and so forth.
Also, if you’re still feeling hungry before you go to bed, snack on foods that are healthy but still high in carbs like bananas. You could also opt for something like quinoa or brown rice.
The Morning of Your Race
One more time: nothing new on race day. You should plan to eat a light breakfast like you’ve had before. Ideally, you’ve tried a breakfast that you might eat a couple times before in training.
Do what’s best for you, but you might try something like ½ of a bagel with peanut butter and honey and finish it off with a banana. Or if that’s too fancy for you, just eat two pieces of toast with banana and honey. You could also try oatmeal.
The one thing you most likely want to do is at least eat a banana. If you can’t do anything else, a banana will give you some carbs without sitting super heavy on your stomach. Bananas are also rich in potassium, which your body will use lots of during the race.
If it’s your normal routine to drink coffee, then by all means have a cup, but don’t start drinking coffee if you typically do not. Make sure that you’re continuing to drink plenty of fluids, but don’t overdo it.
Finally, a sports drink 30 minutes before the start will top off your carbs and give you a good headstart on your fuel. Don’t forget those carbs! One study found that how many carbs new marathoners ate largely predicted their finishing times. Those who skimped ran slower.
As a side note, when you eat your gels during the marathon, make sure that you always accompany them with water. The gels are designed to be processed with a mouthful or two of water, not a sports drink, which could give you too many electrolytes.
You’ve finished the race! Congrats! Now it’s time to hydrate with water or a sports drink and some protein. Some elite runner finish every run with a glass of chocolate milk. Consider following suit; it contains the perfect ratio of carbs and protein. This will be a huge advantage in muscle recovery.
Celebrate by going out to eat with your friends and family who came to watch you and get a meal with good carbs and some protein.
Just like you’ll want to eat more carbs the week before the race, you’ll want to divert more calories toward eating protein after the race. You can bring back the meat!
Other Tips To Fuel For A Marathon
If you’ve never run a marathon before, then you might think that you have to carb-load in order to do well. While it’s true that you do need to make sure that carbs are in your body, you don’t need to eat spaghetti exclusively for the seven days before the race.
Additionally, your training plan is for more than just running. Try experimenting with foods to eat the night before the marathon and the morning of the race by trying them out during your long training runs.
You’ll learn really fast what works and what doesn’t and be better prepared for race day. If you’re a coffee drinker, like we said above, it’s fine to drink coffee the day of the race. However, if you’re nervous about the race, you might want to cut back so you don’t get the jitters.
Food and nutrition is an important part of training and may give you that extra boost to PR and go even faster than you were originally planning. By following these tips, you’ll be eating the right foods before and after your marathon. Good luck!