Use this marathon nutrition plan as a guide for your marathon training meal plan and race needs, and adapt as needed!
We’re like T-MINUS one week out from the Free Press marathon. I’m in excitement mode now though.
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All in all, I’m grateful to be here. Whether that race goes as planned or not, I’m proud of myself for sticking with this marathon training cycle in conditions that were not always ideal.
I talk about fueling strategies and marathon diet plan in my Facebook group but figured it was worth a blog post because I know people can feel overwhelmed with what to eat before running or what to eat the night before a race.
Hopefully, this will help give you some ideas and help you form a long distance runners diet plan.
Table of contents
What To Eat The Night Before A Marathon
When thinking about your marathon nutrition plan, the night before is key.
When deciding what to eat the night before a marathon, remember, it shouldn’t be any deviation from your normal. If you have a pre long run meal, or pre-race meal that works well for you, stick with it and don’t think too much about it.
Personally, I stick to lower fiber choices. I usually have pizza or a chicken dish with sweet potatoes or rice and a cooked veggie. I’m planning on having something similar in Detroit, depending on which restaurant I eat at.
Even if it’s not super carb-heavy or it’s high in fiber, if it usually works for you, don’t change it up. Your normal diet should be including high carb lunches for running anyway.
Similar to fueling throughout the race, don’t try anything new the night before.
If I’m home the night before a race, I’ll make my sweet potato turkey burgers with a bun because they combine protein and complex carbohydrates, and I’ll get extra carbs for carb loading with the bun.
This post talks more about carb loading for running.
The Best Marathon Foods
Here are some of my favorite carb-rich foods that can fuel your overall marathon eating plan.
- Sweet potatoes – By far, my favorite marathon food because of their carbohydrate and antioxidant content. They are great at reducing inflammation, enhancing immunity, and giving you short and long lasting fuel.
They can help with carb loading, carb replenishment, and even can be a source of fuel during the race.
- Bananas – Bananas are so portable and easy to carry with you to the starting line if you need a quick 15-30 grams of carbs before the race.
- Oatmeal – You an easily get 30-60 grams of carbohydrates from a bowl of oats, which is great to load up with before a run.
I’ll plan on having a banana with oatmeal in my race day breakfast (more on my marathon nutrition plan the morning of below).
What Should I Eat Before A Race?
What to eat the morning of a marathon will depend on what you’ve been doing in your training. Typically, it will be mostly carbohydrate based.
A few hours before the race, I suggest having a few servings of carbohydrates with a little bit of protein or fat.
I get so many questions about what to eat before a race so I’ll give you some examples.
My race day breakfast typically looks like a bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter, banana and a little bit of low fat yogurt about 2-3 hours before.
I say low fat yogurt here because too much fat content can be irritating for some people before running as it will stay around in your stomach longer. This could lead to runner’s stomach issues.
I will also have water with a NUUN tablet.
Some other race day breakfast ideas:
- toast with peanut butter, honey and banana
- bowl of cereal or granola
- a slice of peach baked oatmeal with nut butter or yogurt
- cherry oatmeal muffins with a hard boiled egg
- a smoothie (more focused on carbs than protein)
- half of a bagel with cream cheese
If you’re someone who really doesn’t do well with a larger meal, do make sure to eat something, even if it’s smaller.
Believe me, some carbohydrates will make ALL the difference in your marathon nutrition plan.
As it gets closer to race time, I’ll have half of a banana, an energy bite, or some dried cereal before the race starts. I don’t like to start long races with an empty tank so I have my larger breakfast earlier on and then some small snacks right before.
Nutrition During the Marathon
I think I’ve nailed this down after my last few long runs of practicing.
If you need more ideas for fueling during a race, you can see more of my favorite endurance nutrition products here.
This general plan worked well for my 20 mile run so I’m sticking with it.
Lastly, I’m bringing some Sour Raisins because I really love them and they’re small enough to not choke on and store in my belt pockets.
The Detroit Marathon will have Clif Shot Gels, but I don’t plan on taking those unless absolutely necessary since I didn’t train with them.
Generally speaking, you want 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of endurance activity. Typically, that looks like 2-3 gels or chews every 60 minutes.
In terms of running hydration, I’m going to drink 4ish oz every 20-30 minutes.
What To Eat After a Marathon
Now, we have to think about REFUELING! Eating after a long run or race is perhaps the most important part of recovery.
What is the best food to eat after a long run?
Ideally, a mixture of carbs and protein, but truthfully, it’s anything that you can stomach. Eating something is often better than nothing. Aim for a blend of carbohydrates and protein.
This is where a good protein powder for runners can come in handy. Although if you’re at a race and don’t have access to that, anything can work.
A sandwich, a latte with fruit, fruit and peanut butter or yogurt. Even a small snack to hold you over until a bigger meal is ideal.
Immediately after exercise, our muscles are primed to assimilate and build protein from amino acids from the blood. After exercise, our muscles are also most efficient at absorbing carbohydrates.
Both are important – The amino acids replenish and build protein stores, while the carbohydrates refill our glycogen stores.
Some ideas for you of what to eat after a marathon
- greek yogurt smoothie or shake
- chocolate milk
- burger or sandwich with the bun (you need your carbs!)
- eggs or omelet with toast
- strawberry baked oatmeal with yogurt
- yogurt with fruit
After the Detroit Marathon, I’ll head to the finish area and hang out and snack for a bit. I’ll probably stop somewhere and grab a sandwich before heading back to my hotel.
My flight home leaves at 5:30 pm, so I’m hoping I’ll have some down time to shower and relax in the room after the race before heading to the airport.
Other Things to Focus On For Marathon Day
Nutrition plays a key role but not the whole entire role. Other things matter, too!
- sleep and rest
- A proper amount of caffeine before running
- healthy fats like salmon, avocado and flax seeds (omega 3 fatty acids can help with inflammation)
- carbs at each meal and snack
- incorporating snacks to keep blood sugar balanced (I use these healthy athlete snacks as a guide often)
- massage and stretching
- beets and tart cherry juice! You can see other supplements for runners that may be beneficial too.
I am so excited for race day but really need to focus on the basics.
I think the hardest part for me is going to be not having a support team or any family at the finish. Ed is not able to attend, it’s just me.
I think it would have been so cool to see Camryn at the finish line and/or throughout the race, but I’ll have to save that hug for the next day.
I am excited to get back to a longer race. I haven’t run a marathon in 2.5 years, and my last longer distance race was my half marathon postpartum.
Do you nail down your marathon nutrition plan before the race?
Do you always stick to the same pre race meal?