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Marathon training and diet

Marathon training and diet

This month thousands of people received the (hopefully) welcome news that they had won a place on the 2014 Virgin London Marathon – one of the most famous races in the world.

If you are one of the lucky 37,000 to be running in the race in April next year, it’s wise to already be thinking about your training plan to get your fitness levels up and to keep injuries at bay. There are many websites offering a wealth of information, and the Virgin Marathon and Asics websites are safe places to start for good, solid training plans.

But a detailed training plan isn’t all you need to think about. You need to eat the right things too, and the best place to start doing that is to look at how your current diet stacks up. As with any sensible balanced diet, when you’re in training for an event it’s vital to make sure you’re getting a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, as well as plenty of wholegrains like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and wholemeal bread.

You should also keep processed foods, especially those high in saturated fat, to a minimum – you don’t want to carry too much extra weight around in training and on the big day! Eat more fish and aim to have oily fish such as salmon or mackerel at least once a week. You should also drink plenty of water to keep well hydrated.

What you eat during training and on the day of the event it is really important and can greatly impact your performance, so make sure you work out what suits you. If you’re off on a long run (more than an hour), have a low-fat and low-to-moderate protein meal with plenty of carbohydrates at least 2-3 hours beforehand to give you time to digest it. Porridge with a serving of fruit is one that always works for me. Or you could try Jamie’s homemade crumpets with raspberries and honey.

For post-run meals or drinks you need a ratio of 3:1 of carbohydrates to protein, to replenish the glycogen lost from your muscles and to help with muscle repair. Some great recipes from Jamie that tick that box include his kiwi fruit, ginger and banana smoothie, which you can prepare in advance and drink immediately after your run, and Jamie’s veggie chilli. It’s from Jamie’s 15-minute Meals so it’s super easy to cook and is a real winner with keen runners because the rice and tortilla makes up our carbohydrate element and the beans are a good source of protein.

Marathon Training 7-Day Meal Plan

The cool temps have slowly crept up on us and we couldn’t be more excited!! Who else is signed up for a fall marathon? It’s one of our favorite times of year to up the mileage and start some serious training. The leaves are changing colors, the air is cool and crisp, and some of our favorite produce starts popping up at the farmers markets!

Last year Shalane was the first American woman in 40 years to win the NYC Marathon ([email protected]# yeah!!). If you haven’t heard, she announced that she’ll be competing in NYC again this November! That means Shalane is in serious training mode right now and also focusing on fueling up with her favorite Run Fast. Eat Slow. and Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. recipes (abbreviated RFES and RFCFES below). Now that fall is approaching we’re all about stocking up on local apples, sweet potatoes, soup ingredients and baking supplies…bring on the Pumpkin Spice Superhero Muffins! It just so happens that our favorite Fall foods are super nourishing for marathon training.

Favorite Fall Foods for Runners

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are one of our favorite foods for packing in nutrients while also getting some good complex carbs. We’ve found ways to sneak them into lasagna, pizza (have you tried Amy’s Recovery Pizza?! Recipe in RFCFES), hummus, waffles, and cookies (Sweet Potato Breakfast Cookies in RFES)! We love that they are loaded with complex carbs, vitamin C, and potassium.

Brussels sprouts

We love these little crucifers! Brussels sprouts are part of the cruciferous vegetable family (think kale, cauliflower, broccoli), which are known for their strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Roast a couple trays of brussels sprouts and throw into Power Bowls (recipe in RFCFES), DIY Grain Salads (recipe in RFCFES) or enjoy as a side with Roasted Chicken (recipe in RFES) all week long.

It’s no secret that we love beets! We always find ways to sneak them into recipes. You can find them in our smoothies/smoothie bowls (gotta try the Rad Raspberry bowl! Recipe in RFCFES), hummus, muffins (Beet Molasses Superhero Muffins, yes please! recipe in RFCFES), and salads (just add arugula and goat cheese). These powerhouses are loaded with anti-inflammatory compounds and studies show they’re great for endurance!

Butternut squash

This is our favorite fall squash because of its creamy texture and sweet, nutty flavor. Add it to grain salads, Power Bowls (recipe in RFCFES), frittata (recipe in RFCFES), or puree into a soup! They are antioxidant-rich and loaded with vitamin C to boost your immune system during cold season.

Nothing says fall a fresh picked, crisp, juicy apple! Throw them into smoothies (have you tried our Immune Boost Smoothie?! Find the recipe in RFCFES), smear them with nut butter, add to your morning oats (gotta try our Apple Pie Steelcut Oatmeal in RFCFES) or make an apple crisp (swap out apples for the berries in our Oregon Berry Crumble in RFES)! They contain natural sugars that are a great source of quick energy for runners. They’re also rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and fiber.

Meal Plan Your Way to the Finish Line

We’re celebrating Shalane’s NYC Marathon training with this 1-week meal plan using some of her favorite fall-inspired recipes from both Run Fast. Eat Slow and Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.

Meal prepping and planning is key to having a nourishing week of meals and snacks. Setting aside just 2-3 hours to prep each week will set you up for success!

In this meal plan, you’ll be rotating between a few different breakfast and snack recipes all week long. Many dinners and lunches will be repurposed leftovers from the day before so you don’t have to constantly make new recipes every day. Use the meal plan as a guide and feel free to get creative or mix things up. If you’re cooking for a family, doubling favorite recipes is always recommended.

My notes on this Easy meal Prep plan

I like to  meal prep for 6 days during the week.

There is usually at least one day that we are eating outside the house, bringing food home, or just eating leftovers and so I leave that day open for flexibility in my eating.

I typically will rotate between a couple of different things.

My husband and I are not picky eaters at all nor are we elaborate so you will probably find this meal plan very simple to follow and even implement!

I am currently not training for a marathon or going out on “long” distance runs.

T his meal plan would include more brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc. if I was training for a marathon or even half marathon.

You can learn all about how you should be eating while training for a marathon in the ꃪT LIKE A MARATHONER ਌ourse or over on our page on  Marathon Nutrition.

Protein in a Runners Diet is Very Important

Eating higher protein helps maintain muscle mass when you&rsquore in a calorie deficit, really important for endurance athletes who are almost always going to be low on calories after massive workouts. And LADIES listen up that post workout 30 minute window is really important for you!!

Protein expert Stuart Phillips, PhD from McMaster Univeristy says runners need a minimum is 1.6 grams per kg of body weight per day (2.3-3.1 for muscle building).

  • 1 gram per lb of body weight often works as easy math for women
  • Eating enough protein helps manage the hunger from marathon training
  • Eating enough protein helps keep hormones in check and prevent muscle loss
  • Protein can absolutely be a combination of plant and meat sources
  • Try not to rely just on protein powders, you want the full range of nutrients from food, plus it’s more filling

It’s also important to remember that you need to get in ENOUGH calories to prevent muscle wasting.

A consistent period of being in calorie deficit means your body will begin to use muscles, not fat, to provide the energy you need for those long workouts.

A day of eating with U.S. Olympic marathoner Shalane Flanagan

Elite marathoner Shalane Flanagan has logged thousands of miles in her training for Rio 2016, where she’ll represent the United States for the fourth time on the Olympic stage. At age 35, Flanagan has figured how to fuel her 5𠆕”, 113-pound frame. Whether it’s the offseason, race day or before a recovery session, Flanagan’s diet—(mostly) absent of processed foods and sugar and full of nutrient-dense foods—is the same and she says it keeps her energized and primarily injury-free. In her new cookbook, Run Fast, Eat Slow, written in conjunction with former college teammate and chef Elyse Kopecky, Flanagan gives foodies, fans and runners a look into her everyday diet and recipes for foods such as her go-to race-day oatmeal, chipotle hummus or runner’s high peanut sauce. (Scroll down for a recipe for a coconut-kale smoothie that will help you go the extra mile.) We caught up with Flanagan ahead of her Rio 2016 debut to talk about preparing for the Olympics, indulgences, pre-race meals and more.

Jamie Lisanti:Will your diet change before the Olympics?

Shalane Flanagan: I’ll continue to eat all the “indulgent nourishment” that Elyse got me hooked on when we started working on Run Fast Eat Slow three years ago. I fuel my body with nutrient dense whole foods, love to cook with good fats like butter and olive oil, and I get my protein fix from high quality meat like grass fed beef and bison.

The Runner's Food Pyramid

The basic food groups take on a whole new meaning when you are a runner.

Food as Fuel

Just as gasoline powers a car, food powers your runs. The right kind of fuel will help your engine run strong as you log your miles. The wrong fuel can hold you back, either through slower times or digestive distress.

Let’s take a moment to understand what’s going on under the hood. Muscle cells have two primary sources of fuel: sugar and fat. Those raw materials can come from the food we eat or from storage within our own bodies.

Dietary carbohydrates are broken down into simple glucose, a form of sugar, which circulates in the bloodstream and powers your cells. The glucose that is not immediately needed is stored as glycogen, another form of sugar, in the muscles and liver. As you run, the body first pulls sugar from your bloodstream and then taps into the stored glycogen as glucose levels start to dip.

The other raw material that fuels your muscles, fat, is used during endurance exercise. Dietary fat must be broken down into fatty acids and other components before it can be used by the muscles, making it less immediately available than carbs and less efficient as a fuel, especially during intense exercise.

Stored body fat, on the other hand, is an excellent fuel source because everyone — even the skinniest of runners — has so much of it. In fact, one of the best changes that happens to your body as you run regularly is that you become better able to use fat as fuel.


What they do: Carbs are “jet fuel for muscles,” says Dr. Jackie Buell, assistant professor of sports nutrition at the Wexner Medical Center at the Ohio State University. Your body breaks down carbohydrates to make glucose that is burned in order to move you forward.

Why you need it: While you’re running, carbs provide you with immediate energy. That’s why sports drinks and pre-packaged fuels like goos and gels are full of easy-to-digest carbohydrates, mostly sugar.

What’s the best pre-packaged energy gel?

However, Dr. Zhaoping Li, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, says that sports products shouldn’t be your only source of carbs, because if you consume too many carbs at one time, your body can’t absorb them all. Instead, your body will convert those carbs into fat. That’s why runners training for long distances should also take in complex carbohydrates, such as pasta, oatmeal and potatoes, in addition to simple carbs like sugars.

How much is enough: Endurance athletes should try to get 60 to 65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, says Dr. Buell (and if you’re wondering about running on a low carb, high fat diet — we’ll get to that later).

When to eat it: Before a race, go for the “more digestible, quick sources of carbs for energy,” says Elyse Kopecky, a chef and co-author of .”, which she wrote along with the Olympic marathoner Shalane Flanagan. Think sugar this is not the time for whole grain or fiber-enriched foods because they’ll sit in your stomach, which means they won’t get used like they should, and could lead to a race to the Port-a-Potty. That’s why instant oatmeal is better before a race instead of steel cut oats.

Where to find: Complex carbs: Pasta, bread, pretzels, cereals and dairy. Simple sugars: Fruit, sports drinks, goos and gels.

What it does: Stored body fat is an important source of energy for endurance exercise. Dietary fat helps your body absorb vitamins.

Why you need it: Fat is not the enemy. Your body, especially when it’s running long distances, needs a backup source of fuel when you’re depleted of carbs. Fats also help you feel full, says Ms. Kopecky. Processed foods that strip out fat typically replace them with things like sugar, which leave you hungry for more.

When to eat it: Anytime, though because dietary fats are not quickly converted into fuel, a fat-rich meal isn’t a great idea right before a run.

Where to find it: Eat a mix of fats: saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated. Saturated fats are found in butter, red meat, dark meat chicken with the skin, coconut oil. Polyunsaturated fats are found in seeds, avocado and fish. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, avocados and some nuts.


What it does: Protein is not a fuel source, but instead it is a muscle builder or — in the case of runners — a muscle re-builder, re-shaper and re-conditioner.

Why you need it: As you run, you break down muscle. Protein helps your body build that muscle back in the way you need it to keep running, says Dr. Li.

How much is enough: Women should consume three ounces (20-25 grams) of protein with each meal as part of a three-meal-a-day diet, says Dr. Li. For men, four to five ounces (25-30 grams) of protein per meal should be enough. For reference, three ounces of chicken, tofu or meat is about the size of a deck of cards.

When to eat it: Runners should also aim to consume protein within 20 minutes after a workout, says Dr Li. Protein prolongs the period of increased insulin levels after a workout, which helps your body direct glycogen back into muscles and recover.

Where to find it: Fish, chicken, beef, beans, pork, dairy, eggs, quinoa, soy, barley, protein powder (such as whey powder).

Fruits & Vegetables

What it does: Fruits and vegetables are other forms of carbohydrates. They contain vitamins and minerals, while also having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Why you need it: The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in fruits and vegetables seem to help ease muscle soreness and limit injuries, says Dr. Li.

When to eat it: Anytime. But if you’ve had GI distress while running and/or in long races, try to limit raw fruits and vegetables 24-48 hours before a long run. (Cooked may work better for you.)

Good sources: All fresh fruits and vegetables are good, but if you’re looking to narrow it down and eat those that pack the most anti-inflammatory punch, pick berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries), stone fruits (peaches, plums, cherries), and a rainbow of vegetables (kale, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers.)

Or try some delicious beetroot juice. In one cyclists who ingested half a liter of beetroot juice before a 2.5-mile or a 10-mile time trial were almost 3 percent faster than when they rode unjuiced. They also produced more power with each pedal stroke.

Power Up for Your Race

You've trained hard and eaten well for weeks — and with your last few pre-race meals, you have a chance to put the finishing touches on your preparations. Just like you practice eating on the run, use your long training runs as opportunities to test out what you'll eat the night before and the morning of your race. Experiment with both the ingredients of your meals and the timing to figure out what works best for you, Griffin says.

Pasta dinners and bagel breakfasts are many runners' go-tos for a reason — simple carbs provide fast energy and tend to be easier on the gut. Griffin recommends including some protein at dinner — perhaps one-quarter to one-third of the plate — to provide what she calls "sticking power." Including protein in your morning meal, such as nut butter or eggs, slows digestion a bit so the release of energy lasts until the gun goes off at the starting line.

You can start with that template, adjust to see what works, then make sure you have access to all those ingredients the night before and on the day of your race, especially if you're traveling. With your meals locked down, you can concentrate on staying calm and running your best.

Marathon training and diet - Recipes

In the past few decades, running marathons has become incredibly popular. There's even an upcoming movie, "Brittany Runs a Marathon," that will chronicle one woman's experience.

Running a marathon can definitely be a rewarding experience — but there's more to it than just signing up. Running that many miles requires significant dedication to preparation and sticking to a healthy marathon training diet in the weeks leading up to the big day.

Here's what you need to know about preparing to run 26.2 miles, from the foods to focus on to the best approach for race day nutrition.

A Healthy Diet for Marathoners

Marathon runners spend hours on their feet doing the same continuous activity. This can put major strain on the body and unfortunately, many runners don't focus enough on their diets. Maintaining a healthy marathon training diet can maximize your performance and help make training easier.

The first step is making sure you are getting enough calories to support the increase in activity. A 2014 study by the National Institute of Physical Education at the University of Barcelona, which investigated the caloric intake of ultra-endurance triathletes, found that the participants were consuming an average of 7,365 kilocalories less than what they were burning during their event. This caused alarm, as increasing physical activity without fueling the body correctly can lead to muscle loss, increased risk for illness, stress and poor sleep.

If you are involved in what would be considered moderate levels of intense training — for example, training two to three hours per day, five to six days a week — a 110-220-pound (50-100 kg) athlete could need to consume 2000–7000 calories per day in order to support that amount of activity, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN). To meet those elevated caloric needs, you will likely want to eat three meals and two snacks each day.

It's also a good idea to choose nutrient-dense food while training. You will not perform your best on a diet of soda and donuts, even though junk food may make it easy to meet your calorie goals. A marathon training diet should be well-balanced and include adequate amounts of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats.

Leveraging Macronutrients for Marathon Training

Macronutrients, carbohydrates, protein and fats all provide calories that can be burned for energy. However, high-performing athletes have slightly different macronutrient needs compared to the average person.

When designing your marathon training diet, the most important macronutrients to focus on are carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide your body with the fuel it needs to reach the finish line. According to the ISSN, athletes following intense training schedules need to eat between 5-8 grams per kg of carbohydrates per day.

Protein is also an important macronutrient for marathon runners. The ISSN recommends an intake of 1.4-1.8 grams per kg per day. Protein will help with recovery, injury prevention and support lean muscle. Protein should be spread out throughout the day and should always be consumed after a run.

Fat should also be part of a healthy marathon runner diet. ISSN recommends keeping fat at around 30% of total calories but this can be increased to meet calorie needs if necessary.

Building Your Marathon Training Diet

When you are preparing for a marathon, you don't want to just focus on creating a training plan for running — you also want a solid nutrition plan. Start by determining how much you will be running and calculate your caloric needs.

If you won't be running more than two hours a day, you won't need to increase your calories that much. The important thing is to listen to your body. If you are hungry, you should eat. If you feel sluggish during a run, try to figure out why. Maybe you are not eating enough or are choosing the wrong foods.

Next, create a meal plan around your training schedule. Meals should be balanced and include whole grains, protein, fat, fruits and vegetables. Meal timing matters as well! You should eat a full meal about four to six hours before your run.

It's also wise to consume a small snack of carbohydrates and protein 30 to 60 minutes before your workout. After your run, eat a meal high in protein within two hours to help muscles recover.

Maximizing Nutrition Every Morning, Noon and Night

Ready to start planning your next shopping trip? Here is a sample marathon training diet plan that can help you reach your goals.

  • Breakfast: Eggs, whole wheat toast, half an avocado and a whole banana
  • Morning snack: Apple with peanut butter
  • Lunch: Quinoa bowl with black beans, chicken, assorted vegetables, salsa and cheese
  • Pre-run snack: Greek yogurt with berries and low-fat granola
  • Post-run dinner: Salmon, brown rice, broccoli with butter
  • Bedtime snack: Milk, whole-grain cereal and berries

Optimizing Race Day Nutrition

Figuring out proper nutrition on race day is the crucial final step in preparing your marathon training plan. Choosing the wrong foods or trying to mix up your routine can negatively impact your performance.

To avoid this, make a race-day plan ahead of time. Try packing everything you need a few days before so you don't forget anything important. Lastly, focus on hydration, fast-acting carbs and getting enough calories to support running 26.2 miles all at once.

Following a solid nutrition plan while training (and on race day) will help make training easier — allowing you to achieve all your marathon goals this year as well as in the future.

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Eat Right While Training

Your meal plan for half marathon training begins when you start your training routine, not the week before the race. During shorter runs that take 30 to 40 minutes, a balanced diet is usually a good plan, according to Colorado State University (CSU). But for those long runs of two hours or longer, increase your carbs to as much as 70 percent of your calorie intake.

You should eat more carbs because your muscles store glycogen, which is converted back to glucose during exercise and used as energy. For endurance events shorter than two hours, glycogen stores in your muscles may be enough. But if you're working your muscles hard for two hours or more, eating extra carbs in the days leading up to that intense effort can help.

Don't forget fluids either. Wexner Medical Center states that when you run for 45 minutes or more, you should be drinking a lot of water. Eating a high-carb, high-protein snack after a long run will help with recovery, points out the Mayo Clinic. Carbs help replace the muscle glycogen lost during training, while protein helps repair your muscles.

Here's What to Eat While You Train For Your First Marathon

Other than shorter days, interminable NFL preseason games, and the always-too-early return of pumpkin spice coffee beverages, the surest sign that fall is nearly upon is your annual flirtation with the idea of running a marathon this fall. But if this is the year that you actually mange to convince yourself that New York or Chicago or Seattle or. something called the Wineglass Marathon is indeed a good idea, you'll probably first tackle a months-long, carefully-crafted training regimen that requires you to run longer distances in a single day than many New Yorkers drive in a year. To ensure that what you're using to fuel your body's strenuous efforts is not, to use a technical term, trash, we asked Dr. Fred Pescatore, a nutritional medicine expert and author of The Hamptons Diet, for a few tips on getting the most out of your hard work.

Space things out. You're asking a lot—a lot—of your body when running a marathon, and your diet has to support those changes. Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, and be sure the energy on which you're relying is coming from high-quality sources, like nutrient-packed vegetables (broccoli, zucchini, sweet potatoes, and anything with a root) and lean meats (chicken, fish, and grass-fed beef). Skipping the big three meals and instead eating five or six smaller portions every two to three hours will help keep your metabolism elevated and your blood sugar levels stable.

Drink water—and not much else. You should aim for a total intake of about half your body weight in ounces every day. Try to do most of your hydrating before and after a workout, when you need it most, and avoid relying on pre-workout energy drinks to carry the load. Also, lay off the booze. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the body, and it also affects blood sugar levels—which, since distance runners depend heavily on stored glycogen from blood sugar for energy, is bad news for your training. If you're committing to getting the most out of the hard work you're putting in, abstention is your best bet. (Remember, you chose to do this.)

Don't buy all the pasta just yet. Some runners feel great and perform best when they carb-load before a workout, but although high-quality carbohydrates are certainly a key component of a training diet, gigantic spaghetti feeds do not work for everyone—others find that spacing carbs throughout the day helps them to train more efficiently. See how your body reacts, and if it doesn't work for you, don't feel compelled to adhere to a rigid carbo-loading philosophy from the jump, since doing so can lead to unhealthy eating habits beyond the training period if you're not careful about it.

Eat right before race day. Plan on increasing your carb intake gradually beginning about three weeks before the race in order to build up your body's glycogen reserves, aiming for between three and five grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight by race day. Stick with a simple, easily digestible meal the night before—as is the case when preparing for most major life events, now is not the time to test your stomach's tolerance for spicy foods—and eat a simple breakfast two or three hours before the race begins. Experiment with safe options like oatmeal or a bagel with peanut butter during your training regimen and see which foods cause your body to respond best.

Learn some lessons. You finished a marathon! Congratulations! Now, while perhaps you feel entitled to a celebratory double cheeseburger and all of the fries as you bask in the glory of your accomplishment, don't wake up the next morning and abandon every tenet of the regimen to which you so scrupulously adhered over the past few months. Training for a marathon is a great time to develop healthy habits that last beyond race day, and doing things like eating smaller meals sourced from high-quality carbohydrate and protein sources is a good idea even when you're not preparing to run 26.2 consecutive miles. Besides, habits like those may even make it easier for you to run another marathon in the future, if you have so much fun the first time around that you decide to give it another go. (You psycho.)

Diet for Marathon Runners

In addition to training, marathon runners must also focus on their diet.

A healthy diet will significantly influence your marathon training and race-day performance.

An adequate diet in terms of quantity and quality, before, during and after, training and competition, will maximize results for marathon runners.

The following 4 steps will help marathon runners develop a diet that will maximize their performance.

Step 1 – Basic Nutrition Needs
Ensure the basic diet needs of the marathon runner are met – this is the foundation of any sports nutrition plan. More

Step 2 – Training
Marathon runners need to plan for increased nutrition requirements during training. The training diet holds the most potential for improving your marathon performance. More

Step 3 – Competition
Marathon runners need to develop their own diet strategy for competition. This is when you will implement the diet plan that you have practiced in training. More

Step 4 – Special Nutrition Issues
Be aware of special diet issues for marathon runners in order to make decisions to maximize performance.

What are the basic diet requirements for marathon runners?

  • Basic nutritional requirements are the foundation for healthy eating.
  • When you eat enough food to meet basic requirements, you provide you body with just enough nutrients for energy and to maintain health and normal function.
  • Growth, tissue damage, repair and stressful environments can increase nutritional needs.

What happens if marathon runners are not meeting basic diet requirements?

  • If marathon runners are not eating enough food to meet basic diet requirements their bodies will not get enough nutrients and nutritional inadequacies may start to occur.
  • Symptoms include chronic tiredness, frequent illness, poor concentration, poor performance and poor recovery.

What are the nutrients a marathon runner needs and what do they do?

Provides the superior fuel source for muscles during physical exercise. Carbohydrate is stored in limited amounts only and needs to be continually replenished. To learn more about carbohydrate and carbo-loading click here

Helps keep bowels regular and can help reduce blood cholesterol. Marathon runners may need to decrease fibre pre-competition to prevent gut problems.

Essential in the growth and repair of all body tissues, including muscle and bone hormone and enzyme production optimal immune function. Protein is also a minor source of energy. To learn more about protein click here

Provides the most concentrated and largest source of energy. Fat provides most of the energy for daily activity. Required for normal growth and healthy skin, production of certain hormones, structural component of body cells, supply of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. To learn more about fat click here
Prevents dehydration, helps cool the body and acts as a transport medium. Stored in the body in limited amounts. To read more about water, sports drinks and other fluids click here

Vitamin B Complex
Involved in carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism. B12 and folate are required for red blood cell production.

Vitamin C
Enhances iron absorption, acts as an antioxidant (antioxidants ‘mop up’ free radicals, preventing cell damage), increases energy production, is necessary for the synthesis of collagen for the formation of connective tissue and bone.
Vitamin E
An antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are substances that cause cell damage. As a result of greater oxygen uptake athletes have higher levels of free radicals. Antioxidants ‘mop up’ free radicals, preventing cell damage.

Required for the formation of haemoglobin and myoglobin, the oxygen-carrying components of red blood cells and muscle cells respectively. Required for energy reactions to take place. To learn more about iron
click here

Required to build and maintain strong bones and teeth, essential for muscle function, blood clotting and nerve transmission. To learn more about calcium click here
Essential for normal growth, reproduction, immune system function and energy production in muscle cells.

Guidelines for marathon runners to meet basic diet requirements
Eat a variety of food from each of the four major food groups each day (breads and cereals vegetables and fruits milk, dairy products and milk substitutes, especially low-fat varieties lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and meat substitutes like lentils, chickpeas, soy beans and other beans).

Prepare meals with minimal added fat (especially saturated fat) and salt. To read more about salt click here

Choose pre-prepared foods, drinks and snacks that are low in fat (especially saturated fat) and salt. To learn more about fat click here
Maintain a healthy body weight by regular physical activity (which should not be a problem for marathon runners!) and by healthy eating. To read more on weight management for marathon runners click here
Drink plenty of fluids each day. To read more on fluids click here
If drinking alcohol do so in moderation. To learn how alcohol can affect your athletic performance click here

Remember that the above are general nutrition guidelines that provide the foundation for a healthy diet. As a marathon runners you need to get your basic diet right before you begin to work on your training and competition diet.

You as a marathon runner should eat a wide variety from each of the food groups (breads and cereals vegetables and fruits milk, dairy products and milk substitutes lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts fluids) to ensure you get the nutrients your body needs. In doing this you will also have interesting and satisfying meals.

To review a table of examples of a serving of the various food groups and the daily level necessary to meet your basic nutritional requirements
click here

Are you meeting your basic nutritional requirements?

Rule up a chart under the headings

  • Breads and cereal (recommended serves – 6)
  • Vegetables and fruits (recommended serves – 2 fruit & 3 vege)
  • Milk, dairy products and milk substitutes (recommended serves – 2)
  • Meat and meat substitutes (recommended serves – 1)
  • Fluids (recommended serves – 8 cups)

Record what you eat for a day in the food groups. Tally the number of serves you had from each food group and compare with the recommended serves.

If you have not met the recommended servings you need to begin by trying to meet these basic diet requirements. Supplements are not the answer! Often when marathon runners reach for supplements they choose supplements that are not appropriate for their needs anyway. Marathon runners sometimes forget that the goodness they try to get from supplements has been scientifically proven to be of most benefit when found in its natural form in food.

Write down one goal that you will work on over the next week to improve your baseline nutrition. For example: ‘My goal this week is to increase my daily servings of vegetables from one to three.’

Write down your ideas for a meal plan that will enable to you meet your nutritional goals.

Why do you need a nutritional plan for marathon training?
You need a nutritional plan for marathon training to ensure you are meeting your body’s increased nutrient requirements. These increased nutrient requirements will depend on your training volumes, frequency and intensity. Your requirements will also vary during the different training phases of the year. The skills you learn when designing your nutritional plan for training can be used to individualize your plan.

Following sound nutrition practices is most important during marathon training. If you think about it, you spend most of your time training and this is largely what determines your performance in competition. Good nutrition will help you maximize your training and your competition performance. Your nutrition on competition day is just fine-tuning of your training nutrition. To read more about nutrition during marathon training click here

Competition Nutrition
Competition nutrition is an extension of training nutrition. The correct nutritional strategies before, during and after competition will help you achieve the ultimate goal: your best possible marathon performance.

Planning your meals for competition is a good way of focusing on your marathon event. By knowing when, what and how much you are going to eat and drink, you can be confident that you have the best possible nutritional preparation. Planning ensures that the food you want is available, whether you’re at home or traveling. To read more about nutrition during competition click here