10 Tips for Marathon Nutrition for All Runners

Coach Casey · October 13, 2021

It’s marathon season! With the recent completion of the Boston and Chicago marathons and the upcoming NYC Marathon, it’s all about 26.2 this Fall! Whether you’re personally gearing up for your first or 100th marathon, or just starting your training, it’s important to have all the right information. Preparing your body and mind for a marathon is much more than just the miles you run. Knowing how to fuel your body in the training leading up to, the days before, and the day of your big race is essential. Having completed more than 400 marathons between us, the Charge Running coaches have plenty of marathon nutrition tips. 

To keep all of our marathon nutrition tips simple and to the point we’re going to lay things out by time phase. During marathon training. In the final days before the marathon, and the day of the marathon. As always, if you want more detailed insight into marathon nutrition, or have specific questions, don’t hesitate to contact any one of our awesome Charge coaches!

10 Marathon Nutrition Tips for Every Runner! 

Marathon nutrition tips will help you with your next race!

Marathon Training Nutrition:

1. Focus on the proper balance of macronutrients + fruits & vegetables

Macronutrients are a runner’s best friend when it comes to marathon nutrition tips. Complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein should be the focus of any well-balanced meal. Balancing your caloric intake to roughly 60% complex carbohydrates, 30% healthy fats, 1g/kg of bodyweight of protein, and filling in the rest with a colorful mix of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis is key.

2. Eat more

While you shouldn’t be gorging yourself at the dining room table during marathon training, you will need to eat more than you’re used to. Simply put, to properly train for a marathon you’ll be running more and more. In order to have the fuel to keep up with your training AND recover and adapt, you’ll need a higher caloric intake. As long as you’re eating the right foods, in the right balance, you should be aiming to increase your caloric intake on the daily. 

3. Find what works

Use your months of marathon training time to find the perfect diet specific to your performance. Try a variety of foods and dishes. Pay attention to how certain foods make you feel before, during, and after a run or workout. Every runner is unique and therefore every case of marathon nutrition is going to be unique as well. Start find what works early on in your training cycle so that you have plenty of time to get it right!

Marathon nutrition is essential to race performance.

Final Days Before Your Marathon:

1. Carb Loading

There are plenty of opinions when it comes to “carb loading” before a race. However, we know this much to be true: Any racing effort for 90 minutes or more will require more carbohydrates to be used as a slow-burning energy store. Therefore, unless you plan to run your marathon in under 90 minutes (look out world!) there needs to be an increase in your carbohydrate intake leading up to race day. This is NOT to say that the high school cross country approach of eating one’s weight in spaghetti the night before a race should be viewed as wise. for 4-7 days leading up to your race try simply increasing your carbohydrate intake by 10% or so. This could be as simple as an extra few scoops of quinoa at dinner, or an additional sweet potato. 

2. Hydration

Hydration may for some runners become automatic during their marathon training. When it comes to marathon nutrition tips however, there’s a point when the automatic needs to become a bit more focused and purposeful. In the 48 hours leading up to your marathon, be sure to pay attention to proper levels of hydration. The final 24 hours before the race will be the most important. Track your hydration intake and make sure that you’re not anything but very well hydrated.

3. Limit Experimentation

As much as we promote finding what works in terms of marathon nutrition in the months of training before a marathon, the final days before the race is not the time for experimentation. By this point you should know what works for your body and stick to it. Be sure to stock up on your favorite, nutritious, food and meal supplies ahead of time. As much mental as physical, keep things simple in the days before the race.  

Prepare for your next race the right way with specific marathon nutrition tips.

Marathon Day:

1. Breakfast

Again, stick to what you know. Eat a hearty, filling breakfast 3-4 hours before your race is set to start. Try to avoid high-fat and high-fiber foods as these will sit in your stomach far too long to be comfortable while running. If you’re a coffee drinker, try cutting out the coffee additives on race day. This means keep it to black coffee, not extra sugar or cream. Some classic options are oatmeal with fresh berries or toast with jam and some plain yogurt.

2. Pre-Race Snack

Did we say “stick to what you know” already? By this point you should have a strong idea of what pre-race or run snack works best for you. Have that on hand and be sure to have it down about an hour before race time. Granola bars, bananas, and the like are great options. Be sure throughout this time to be taking consistent sips of water, not gulps, sips.  

3. Race Fuel

During your long runs leading up to your marathon try a variety of race fuel options. Focus on products that not only produce the intended results but are also easy to consume while running. You want to focus your race consumption on a mix of carbohydrates, hydration, and a bit of caffeine (only if you know you can handle it). Energy gels and bars made for in-race marathon nutrition are normally 25-35g of carbohydrates so consuming 1-2 of those spread out every hour of the race is a great place to start. Fluid intake is also important, this is where a bit of caffeine can come into play as well. Water should be your main focus, but adding in a hydration supplement, like Nuun or a homemade alternative, to increase your carb, potassium, and sodium intake is a great idea. 

4. Post-Race

It’s important to restock your glycogen stores as much as realistically possible within an hour of finishing your marathon. However, unless you have another race within the next 24 hours, don’t worry too much about exactly what you put back in your body. Chances are you’re taking the following day off of running anyways so enjoy yourself! Hamburger, chicken fingers, tacos, one or more adult beverages. All fair game! Have some fun and celebrate your AMAZING accomplishment! 

Looking for more specific marathon nutrition tips and advice on training and racing? Sign up for Charge Running today and get unlimited access to the expertise of our professional run coaches!

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