How My Nutrition Has Changed Since Marathon Training

  Oct 17, 2018  |  #Marathon Training

Wondering what your marathon training diet should look like? I’m talking about how my nutrition and food choices have changed since starting marathon training.

So, in reference to today’s title, a lot of it is actually just a reiteration of a balanced diet. You don’t have to have a specific marathon training nutrition plan, but I do recommend optimizing your nutrient intake.

In other words, I guess it’s safe to say I have put a larger focus on certain things since marathon training. I’ve changed up my nutrition plan a little bit.

Despite what some may think, dietitians don’t eat perfectly all the time. There really is no such thing as eating perfectly, anyway.

There, I said it.

Nutrition During Marathon Training

Like anyone, I can sometimes eat too much, choose the wrong snacks at the wrong time (that don’t energize and/or satiate me), and forget to drink water. And believe me, I have done all of these, and I will do them again. And again. However, I can’t get away with as much as I used to when I wasn’t marathon training. By that I mean if I’m not eating right, I feel it on my runs. I have lacked the energy for those long runs and have had runs where I felt bloated the whole time.

Here are some things I’ve really focused on and learned in my day to day nutrition plan. I’ve written before about the best recovery foods for after a long run, or at least, discussing what’s worked for me and the science behind what foods are best for recovery.

Running BI, marathon training

Marathon training takes a toll on the body. Not only does the body need more calories and carbohydrates, but also vitamins and minerals. The reason for this is because we are depleting them much quicker to fuel our exercise.

I crave more complex carbs.

I’ve always been a carbohydrate girl. I’d estimate carbs are probably 60% of my diet. But, my intake of the starchier carbs has increased. I’m having quinoa, sweet potatoes, beans, squash and bananas on the reg.

Yes, I have a huge sweet tooth, and it’s so much easier to grab crackers or dry cereal and munch on it. But, these snacks don’t satisfy me as much.  So, I’ve learned to snack on more complex carbs (sweet potato with nut butter, anyone?) and focus on extra vegetables to sustain my energy. 

Related: Read this post about why low carb diets aren’t going to help you for your next PR). 

Sweet Potato Nachos are a reg in our house.


Same with sweet potato energy bites

Sweet potato energy bites on striped napkin | Bucket List Tummy

Listening to My Body

I’ve actually had to learn to eat a little bit less for dinner. This sounds silly but I normally eat a lot. There were nights, especially after a tough workout, where I would go to bed super full because I felt I needed to fit in all of my nutrition at that one dinner. 

Plate of rice, ground beef and veggies

I’m the type of person who can’t go to bed hungry, but I also don’t want to go to bed uncomfortably full either, so this has been a good learning lesson. 

Eating Two Lunches

In saying that, I’ve sort of gravitated towards having two lunches most days. I’ve sort of shifted from three larger meals to four moderate-sized meals with lots of snacks, and I’m A-Okay with it. I don’t like feeling uncomfortably full because it zaps my energy. 

stuffed squash

Getting Something Green Everyday

All the more important though, while marathon training. That’s where the antioxidants are. There have been many work lunches where I have had no control over what was being served. So, while I’m not able to eat as many veggies as I may like at those lunches, I’ll just make sure to add extra at dinner. Or as a snack.

This takes a little bit of preparation and forecasting on my part, and making sure I have carrots/celery/peppers on hand for snacking, but it definitely helps. I love to utilize some of these meal prep tips!

whole foods

On the same note, keeping the pantry stocked with runners’ essentials is a huge help too!

I’ve started taking Vitamin D more consistently.

I actually went to the doctor’s to get tested to make sure I wasn’t deficient. I’m not deficient, but my levels are on the lower end. So, that means rather than taking a supplement whenever I remember, my doctor recommended taking one regularly. I’m taking this one. This is the amount my doctor recommended I take.

Note that you want to take D3, not D2, because D3 is the form of Vitamin D that we absorb. I’ve also read that soft gels may be better absorbed by the body.

While research on Vitamin D and athletics is still inconclusive, there is some research linking deficiency to increased stress fractures, decreased immunity, and poorer physical performance. 

We’re actually getting into the season where it’s harder to get it from the sun (depending on where you live) because the sun’s UV rays will be weaker. Just something to beware of, since it’s tough to get adequate Vitamin D from our foods!

We also include seafood in our diets 2x/week, since seafood is one of few dietary sources of Vitamin D. Salmon sheetpan meals are a winner in my book because they are quick and require minimal prep and no clean up.

Breaded salmon with broccoli and potatoes | Bucket List Tummy

Overall, I’m just more aware about vitamins and minerals. Intense exercise depletes our stores moreso, so marathon training also requires more nutrients and vitamins, as well as calories.

I go to bed much earlier

Ahhh, sleep. How I love thee. I’ve always been a night hawk and not an early riser. I’m slowly trying to transition that, but I have put a large emphasis on getting more sleep.

While I love the idea of waking up early to get a start on blog and freelance work, I know that the extra sleep is what my body needs during this time. I love reading research about how sleep strategies can help running performance

I’m trying my best to prioritize sleep, and alcohol before bed definitely doesn’t help!

Smoothie Bowls

If I don’t have one daily, it’s got to be every other day. Cold liquid bowls are what I crave after a run, and nothing more. I am in love with Vega’s endurance protein powder, which also has tart cherry juice and turmeric, which are great for recovery and reducing inflammation. It also has probiotics added as a bonus. I’ve also been really into the Gainful protein powder because you can personalize your own blend!

I got turned on to Vega from another dietitian. The ingredients are tasty, not chalky. Many of their protein powders also have a couple servings of greens in them!

Vega One


I’ve been drinking more water and less coffee. My overall focus has been on water, especially after the hot summer we had (more on hydration in the summer).

I have definitely increased my intake from before training. I love having a NUUN everyday, which makes drinking water really easy.

How my Nutrition has Changed during marathon training

I’ll be back Wednesday with a recipe, and hopefully Friday with a FNCE recap!

I’m linking up with Hoho Runs and Misssippipiddlin for the Weekly Wrap!

How does your eating change before/during/after marathon training? 

DisclaimerSome links above may be affiliate links, which means I get a small kick back if you make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me continue to run the blog. 

Grab your FREE list of the most nutritious post-run foods to refuel your body and muscles. No spam here, promise.

41 responses to “How My Nutrition Has Changed Since Marathon Training

  1. The way you eat is how I’d do it in a perfect world. Some days I do better with it than others… we’re still trying to get back to “normal” after vacation. I much prefer a lot of smaller meals throughout the day though. And a cold smoothie bowl is a must after a workout!

  2. I feel so much more energized after eating complex carbs like sweet potatoes, bananas, etc. Sweet potatoes and nut butter is seriously the best combo! Vega protein powder is the best too. I haven’t had the sports one though. I love the vega one and I love that I’m getting lots of greens too!

  3. I’m 6 months post marathon and just now feel like my diet is getting back to normal. I was eating SO MUCH during my training up near 3,000 calories per day AHHH! Now I can get through my day like you with 4 moderate sized meals and snacks…it’s truly crazy how much stress running can put on your body!

  4. I love how you have really simple tips here that wouldn’t be hard for anybody else who is training for a race or training in general. When I’m training for a long race, I definitely am more mindful of going to bed early and drinking more water. Especially in Colorado, drinking water is so important, and I neglect it too often. And those sweet potato nachos sound like an amazing way to get in complex carbs. I think it’s awesome how our bodies know that we need more complex carbs especially in marathon training.

  5. Loved reading how you have adapted your nutrition, I also laughed at the 2 lunches – I think I just started eating 2 breakfasts during training. Now I am having a hard time adapting my nutrition post-race… Haha! Still craving a lot of complex carbs.

  6. I’m betting all the summer running really helped you with your vit D. I was so happy to find my levels were no longer deficient after a summer in the sun!
    This is fascinating to me. Especially the bit about complex carbs. I would think that I would crave that simple carbs, but then again, our bodies tend to know best.

  7. During this last training cycle, I tried not to use it as an excuse to overeat and ending up dropping several pounds. I made sure to eat a balanced diet and take in extra protein too and of course more carbs toward the end. What an excellent idea — sweet potatoes and nut butter. Who would have thought? Thanks for linking, Sarah!

  8. I crave carbs and I’m not marathon training. Hummm sweet potato, Yes Nut better, Yes. But I’ll leave it to you to put them together. lol. I so need to up my water and lower my coffee, it just hasn’t happened yet!

  9. I find that eating a large breakfast and having my meals become smaller and smaller throughout the day work best for my tummy. I used to eat huge dinners too, but my body feels much better when I have a smaller dinner. Awesome post, Sarah!

  10. Will have to try the nachos. Looks like a treat but good for me. This is the one part of training that I find challenging but really trying to work at. I try to remember to eat something every 3-4 hours throughout the day. I also use the kids’ bowls and plates because they tend to be the correct size for portions rather than over serve myself. Looking forward to your recovery food post!

  11. When I was marathon training, I found what meals worked for me and stuck to those. I didn’t branch out too much or try too many new things. I ate a lot of the same food. Now that I’m not, I eat more diverse (and sometimes pay for it like on my run this morning) but that makes life more fun.

  12. I think that switching to 4 meals a day is a great idea, especially if that is whats working for you. I have always naturally found myself eating more during marathon training but I really need to pay attention to make sure I am getting enough quality foods! Its so much easier to grab processed foods when you are tired and hungry.

  13. Very interesting – even from a non marathon runner. It’s always just really nice to see someone staying really aware of what is working/not working for them nutritionally and ensuring they give their body what it needs in any sort of enhanced training plan or change of lifestyle. You definitely know what you are talking about and giving your body its best chance at top performance! Well done girl.

  14. I can’t relate to marathon training, but since I started my weight lifting class, I’ve definitely focused more on sneaking in extra protein and worrying less about eating “too late” at night and more about making sure I eat enough overall!

  15. I am a huge nacho fan. Those sweet potato ones look delicious and I’m sure much healthier than most.. I just completed a marathon so I am not longer in marathon training mode so need to reevaluate my nutrition needs.

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