Running a Marathon? Your Fueling Questions Answered | STACK Fitness
X

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

Running a Marathon? Your Fueling Questions Answered

May 1, 2013 | Heather Mangieri

Must See Nutrition Videos

Marathon season is in full swing, and many of my clients have come to me with nutrition questions for their big race. If you’re running a marathon soon, you should already be practicing your fueling plan during long runs, but you may still have one of these common marathon nutrition questions.

Q: Should I carbohydrate load?

A: The goal with carbohydrate loading (also referred to as muscle glycogen supersaturation) is to increase glycogen stores to fuel your run (learn more about glycogen). Proper carbohydrate loading requires more than a big pasta dinner the night before a race. To maximize the amount of glycogen your muscles can store, you will need to increase carbohydrates while decreasing training volume in the days leading up to the event.

Q: What should I eat the week leading up to the event?

A: This is no time to be trying new foods! Your diet should remain fairly consistent during race week. Stick with the same well-tolerated carbohydrates that you have been eating while training. Each meal should be balanced with healthy carbohydrates (whole grains, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy), lean protein and healthy fats.

Q: What should I eat the night before?

A: The night before the marathon should look similar to the night before your long training run (you were practicing fueling for your long runs, right?) Think "healthy, balanced meal." The most important thing is that you don't consume anything that might upset your gastrointestinal tract or cause you to wake up feeling yucky. Be sure to have a healthy carbohydrate source, moderate protein and low fat. A few of my favorite suggestions are chicken stir-fry over rice, chicken fajitas or pasta (but skip the garlic bread.) If you eat dinner early in the evening, you may want to add a bowl of cereal before bed. (Learn more about pre-activity nutrition.)

Q: What should I eat the morning of the marathon?

A: Be sure to eat breakfast. Although there’s no “right” meal to eat, you should definitely stick with carbs you can digest quickly and food that you’re sure you can tolerate before running. Avoiding high-fiber and high-fat foods is also a good idea (although many runners do great with oatmeal before long runs.) Some good pre-race breakfast options include English muffin with peanut butter and jelly, cereal with milk, fruit, rice cakes with peanut butter and energy bars.

QWhat's the best fuel during the marathon?

A: There is no "best" food for marathons. You just want to maintain steady fuel intake by consuming easy-to-digest carbohydrates such as sports drinks, fruits, dried fruits (pineapples, raisins and dates are good choices) and even candy like gummy bears or licorice. Sports gels, sports beans, chews and bloks also work.

The only way to figure out your own marathon nutrition plan is by experimenting on long training runs. By practicing your fueling plan, you’ll be able to focus on having fun during the race instead of worrying about hitting the wall or experiencing GI discomfort.

If you're just starting your training, check out this 20-week foolproof marathon training plan.

Photo: cantstopendurance.com

Heather Mangieri
- Heather Mangieri is an award-winning expert in food and nutrition and a board certified specialist in sports dietetics. She owns Nutrition CheckUp, a nutrition...
Heather Mangieri
- Heather Mangieri is an award-winning expert in food and nutrition and a board certified specialist in sports dietetics. She owns Nutrition CheckUp, a nutrition...
Must See
Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive
Views: 5,007,069
Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 34,372,559
Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,307,131

Featured Videos

Dwight Howard Ab Workout Views: 62,672
John Wall Elbow-to-Elbow Shooting Drill Views: 186,618
Elite Performance with Mike Boyle: Build Explosive Power With Contrast Training Views: 17,880
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Colby Lewis's Post-Game Band Splitter Routine
Views: 8,349,427
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 4,006,048
Allyson Felix Explains How To Choose a Coach
Views: 8,690,635
Charging Ground Balls With Skip Schumaker
Views: 29,573
Antonio Brown Juggles 3 Footballs
Views: 1,176,187

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

The Case for Red Meat

5 Ways to Fuel Your Early Morning Workout

How to Eat Organic Without Breaking the Bank

How Friends and Family Affect Your Food Choices

5 Healthy Foods That Got a Bad Rap

5 Delicious Ways to Make Junk Food Less Junky

6 Healthy Foods You're Overeating

Spice Up Your Healthy Cooking With These Lively Combos

11 Food Services That Deliver Ready-Made Nutritious Meals

10 Easy Ways to Eat Real Food

9 Athlete-Approved Peanut Butter Sandwiches

5 Protein-Packed Recovery Shakes

4 'Bad Foods' That Might be Good for You

5 Foods That Are Stunningly High in Sodium

The Healthiest (And Unhealthiest) Ways to Eat Chicken

The Cheat Meal Day: Why It's Not So Smart

Fuel Up Fast With 4 Smoothies From the New York Giants

Small Change, Big Difference: 5 Foods You Should Buy Organic

10 Athlete-Approved, High-Protein Healthy Cereals

Living Near Fast Food Could Increase Your Odds of Obesity

Salad Showdown: Which Greens Are the Healthiest?

12 Foods Every Athlete Should Eat

The Best Foods for Digestive Health

Terrible Toppings: The 5 Worst Things We Put on Food

STUDY: Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Live (Almost) Forever

How to Deal With Your Sugar Cravings

The Boston Cannons'

5 'Good Foods' That Might Be Bad for You

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

5 Ways Junk Food Can Mess With Your Head

Healthy (and Unhealthy) BBQ Ideas For Athletes

A Sneaky Food Additive Athletes Should Avoid

5 Non-Boring Ways To Eat Chicken

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Does It Really Matter?

7 Foods That Are Ruining Your Workouts

Where the Paleo Diet Falls Short

5 Nutritional Power Combos for Athletes

How Undereating Can Make You Gain Weight

Why You Need Dietary Fiber

Healthy Eating at Restaurants: Decoding a Diner Menu

Load Up on These Foods at Your Backyard Barbecue

6 Eating Mistakes That Undo Your Workouts

The 6 Worst Foods for Athletes

The Grain Guide: How and Why to Use 8 Healthy Whole Grains

3 Fruits and 3 Vegetables Athletes Must Eat

You Should Eat the Peel of These 12 Fruits and Vegetables

Vegetarian Athlete Tips: Olympic Swimmer Kate Ziegler

5 'Healthy' Side Dishes That Are Worse Than French Fries

Healthy Makeovers for 3 Classic Meals