What to Eat Before a Marathon: Stay Fueled with Pre-Race Snacks
Are you training for a marathon? A marathon is a running event with a distance of 26.2 miles and a true endurance contest. When it comes to running your first marathon or working toward a personal best there are many different things you should keep track of in order to ensure a performance you’re proud of before approaching the starting line on race morning. And for many runners, food is more than nutrition, food is fuel. In this post, we're going to discuss what to eat before a marathon and how to prepare for race day.
You don’t want to be hungry when you’re running, but it’s not always easy to know what to eat as you go along. In fact, one of the most common questions new runners have is what to eat before running a marathon.
The food you consume in the weeks and days leading up to your race can make or break your performance and nutrition and proper diet are just as important as your physical training. That’s why it’s crucial to follow a pre-marathon nutrition plan and prepare your body with familiar, fueling race-day food.
Along with the more obvious benefits, fueling properly can also help prevent dehydration, enhance performance, reduce injury risk, and decrease mental fatigue. In this article, we’ll provide a thorough guide to what a marathon runner’s diet should include. We’ll also make recommendations on what to eat leading up to a marathon and what to eat the morning of a marathon.
Exactly what you’ll eat can be dependent on dietary needs but these guidelines will help you make decisions about how to plan your meals before the big race day. Your calories shouldn’t come from anywhere – you need to eat a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates.
Nutrients Runners Need
One of the most important things for you to eat before a marathon is carbohydrates, so tracking carbohydrate intake is paramount. The body’s preferred energy source while running is glycogen. Carbs are converted into energy for the brain and body that allow us to move around and so they’re especially important for athletes. However, be sure to look for complex carbs instead of processed ones because unprocessed carbs retain more nutrients than their processed counterparts. High-fiber foods can also be a good way to increase carbohydrate intake. Good sources of carbs include:
- Fruit (apples, bananas, and raisins)
- Starchy Vegetables (carrots, root vegetables, yams)
- Whole Grains
- Brown Rice
Fruit is a great source of carbs, natural sugar, and vitamins and because of this they’re perfect in energy bars. Additionally, they provide antioxidants as well which help to protect your muscles from the high stress of running and prevent injury. Some fruits that help to elevate energy bars are:
In order to keep your body healthy and more capable of recovering from injury, protein is the answer. Protein will supply some energy, but it mainly serves to prevent muscle breakdown and help to recover the body faster after exercise. It is important to note though not to go overboard on protein before a run unless you’re an endurance runner in which case you may need a bit more than the average runner. Too much protein before a run though could upset your stomach so it is wise to keep a fine balance. Find good sources of protein in nut butters and different seeds. Good sources of protein are:
- Peanut Butter
Try to ensure that no more than 35% of your total diet comes from fats as high-fat foods can quickly cause you to pack on the pounds. You’ll want to stick to foods low in saturated fats and cholesterol.
Foods like nuts, oils, and fish provide essential fats, which are vital for good health.
What to Eat the Week Before a Marathon
Running spends lots of energy so it’s important to choose the correct fuel and pre-race snacks to support your training. You’ll want to make sure your diet includes enough calories to support increased activity throughout your training.
One week before the race, it’s beneficial to start stocking up on carbs that your body will need before, during, and after your race.
Examples of carbohydrate rich snack and food options include:
- Whole grain pasta
Energy bars can be a perfect part of your pre-race diet for gaining the energy and strength you need in order to attain peak performance.
What to Eat the Day of a Marathon
Choose something that your body is used to and something high in carbohydrates and lower in fat, fiber, and protein. You’ll want this to be a lighter snack that your body digests well. During your training, it’s helpful to test different snacks to see what works best for your body.
Examples of a light carbohydrate snack include:
- A banana and energy bar
- A bagel with peanut butter
- Oatmeal with berries
What to Eat During a Marathon
We’ve been discussing what to eat leading up to a run, and before a run, but for a longer distance run like a marathon, it can help to eat mid-run as well as you’ll be running longer than an hour.
A majority of the energy used to fuel your efforts come from your glycogen stores. During a marathon, you are running for 90 minutes or longer and will need to consume carbohydrates to replace your lost glucose.
Snacks like energy gels or energy bars, our personal favorite, are easier to digest and help keep you moving while replenishing what you’re burning. You’ll want to eat a snack loaded with complex carbohydrates every 45 minutes or so.
Real Food for Marathon Race Day
The most vital piece to any nutrition and diet is that it contains real ingredients and real food. The less artificial and processed, the better. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient or don’t recognize it then there’s a chance that it is artificial and an unhealthy addition. The healthiest choices are the ones that contain organic whole food ingredients that retain all of their nutritional value, despite body weight.
Kate’s Real Food serves energy bars that are just that, real food. Instead of supplying bars filled with artificial sweeteners, Kate’s creates bars that are filled with ingredients that are gluten-free, organic, and naturally delicious. The food put into Kate’s bars is all natural and is easily processed in the body because of it. If you’re looking for an energy bar that’s the healthy choice and will fuel you for your racing goals, then choose Real Food and enjoy the nutritional benefits that come along with the choice.
Always remember to stay hydrated and fueled for your marathon. It’s a long race, so you’ll want to make sure you have all the energy you need before embarking on that 26-mile journey.