Countdown to the Marathon - A Nutritional Guide

Marathon Week

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  • Hydrate well - water is best and in particular, during the carbohydrate loading period.
  • Start carbohydrate (CHO) loading three days before the marathon. So continue with your high carbohydrate training diet (CHO making up 50-60% of your diet). Then increase carbohydrate intake slightly in the 3 days before the race (CHO making up to 70-85% of your diet).

The Night before the Marathon

  • Avoid eating lots of salad items and vegetables (roughage) as these may prove to be troublesome on race day, possibly causing digestive problems. Keep pasta sauces simple.
  • Stick to water during the evening meal. Avoid coffee and tea containing caffeine, as these can disrupt sleep.

The Day of the Marathon

  • The pre-marathon meal should contain about 200-300g of carbohydrate and be low in fibre, so as not to cause stomach upset. Suggestions include: Oat based breakfast cereal with skimmed milk, fruit, toast and juice, Porridge with skimmed milk, mixed berries and banana and fruit juice, Fruit smoothies with milk and oatmeal or yoghurt.
  • In the hour before the marathon take a snack or drink for an extra boost of energy to help delay fatigue; dried fruit, low fat fruit yogurt, cereal or energy bar or a sports drink are good options.
  • Drinking 400-600mls of fluid, two hours before the race, to enable you to hydrate and also find time for a visit to the bathroom.

During the race

  • During the race you will need to start topping up carbohydrate levels to ensure you don't run out. Start after about 30 minutes into the race, aim for about 30-60g carbohydrate per hour and continue at regular intervals. Try energy bars, gels, bananas, dried fruit-bars or an isotonic sports drink.
  • Don't wait to become thirsty start to replace fluids early into exercise. It is easier to drink small amounts frequently. Start replacing fluids within the first 30 minutes of exercise.

Ideas for carbohydrate during the race

  • 800 sports drink
  • 2 pieces of fruit
  • Energy gel
  • Flapjack 
  • 2 handfuls dried fruit
  • 2 cereal bars

After the race

  • Remember to eat within the hour to make sure that your body has the fuel to start to recover. Chooses a snack with some protein i.e. fruit yogurt and sandwich, banana and yogurt drink, sandwich.
  • Start replacing lost fluids by drinking until urine appears pale in colour. Eat a high carbohydrate meal following the marathon and continue to eat carbohydrate rich meals for the next week to replenish stores.

Henrietta Bailey
Nutritional Therapist
Pure Sports Medicine

Focused Treatment for Focused Individuals
Telephone 08447 700 800