Have you wondered what to eat before a marathon? I’m sharing my race day marathon nutrition plan.
Well you guys, we’re like T-MINUS one week out from the marathon! I can’t believe it.
I’m in excitement mode now though. I was actually looking back at my prior marathons (Savannah Rock n Roll Marathon and Ogden Marathon) posts to try to renew some of the feelings and excitement I experienced.
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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 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!
So, I’m going to answer questions about:
- what to eat before a marathon
- what to eat before a race as well as on race day
- how I’m fueling during the marathon
- what to eat after a marathon
- my marathon nutrition plan for post race fueling
What To Eat The Night Before A Marathon
The night before a marathon 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.
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. Similar to fueling throughout the race, don’t try anything new the night before.
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.
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.
My Favorite Marathon Foods
Sweet potatoes are among my favorite marathon foods because of their carbohydrate and antioxidant content. They can help with carb loading, carb replenishment, and even can be a source of fuel during the race (I have a client who swore by these sweet potato coconut energy bites).
I also really love bananas and oatmeal for other carbohydrate and electrolyte sources. I’ll plan on having them in my race day breakfast (more on my marathon nutrition plan the morning of below).
What Should I Eat Before A Race?
Like I mention in Your Guide to Race Day Nutrition post, what to eat before 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.
I will also have water with a NUUN tablet.
Some other ideas for what to eat on race day:
- toast with peanut butter, honey and banana
- bowl of cereal or granola
- a slice of baked oatmeal with nut butter or yogurt
- 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.
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.
My Nutrition Plan for During the Race
I think I’ve nailed this down after my last few long runs. I’m going to be using the Skratch Chews and GU chews.
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!
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.
I will mix some Skratch hydration in there as well.
What To Eat After a Marathon
REFUELING! My favorite topic.
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.
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. The amino acids replenish and build protein stores, while the carbohydrates refill our glycogen stores.
Some ideas for you:
- protein smoothie or shake
- chocolate milk
- burger or sandwich with the bun (you need your carbs!)
- eggs or omelet with toast
- 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.
I should also say that this week I’m focusing on:
- sleep and rest
- healthy fats like salmon, avocado and flax seeds (omega 3 fatty acids can help with inflammation)
- carbs at each meal and snack
- massage and stretching
- beets and tart cherry juice!
Am I Excited?
Yes, I am! 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 last fall.
So, fingers crossed everything will go as planned!
Do you nail down your marathon nutrition plan before the race?
Do you always stick to the same pre race meal?