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.
Nutrition for marathon training is paramont. You won’t have a successful training cycle or race without adequate fuel. You don’t have to have a specific marathon training nutrition plan, but I do recommend optimizing your nutrient intake, especially for endurance fueling.
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.
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.
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.
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. And it’s very important to eat more energy and calories to avoid the pitfalls of an energy deficiency.
I Eat More Complex Carboydrates
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.
I Listen 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.
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 in the off season is also very important and a great time to learn to listen to your body. I have a post about nutrition tips for marathon runners in the off season.
I Eat 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.
I’m A-Okay with it. I don’t like feeling uncomfortably full because it zaps my energy.
Get Something Green Every Day
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!
On the same note, keeping the pantry stocked with runners’ essentials is a huge help too!
I Figured Out Fueling
I have loved using UCAN and mix it before my runs.
How to Use UCan
I alternate between the cran-raspberry flavor and orange flavor depending on my mood. With 21 grams of carbs and 170 mg of sodium per scoop, it’s easy to mix with water for an easily-digestible pre workout carbohydrate and hydration tool. Or, I’ll take it in my water bottle during a run. I recommend this to ALL of my clients, especially those with sensitive stomachs.
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I Take Vitamin D
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.
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.
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 Prioritize Sleep
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! More information on sleep for performance.
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 got turned on to Vega Sport from another dietitian. The ingredients are tasty, not chalky. Many of their protein powders also have a couple servings of greens in them!
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 or adding these hydration packets to my water, and definitely using them after a sweaty workout!
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How does your eating change before/during/after marathon training?
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