We’ve spent months putting in the miles and testing out all kinds of fueling options on the run. Yet, what to eat the week of a marathon starts sending us in to a bit of a panic! And how do we change our eating the morning of a marathon?
Do we need to carbo load?
Are we supposed to do the carb depletion before the loading?
And what about all these nerves that are messing with our stomach?
Let’s break down both pieces of the puzzle and help you figure out what’s going to work best for you to enter the race feeling rested, muscle glycogen topped off and stomach happy.
What to eat the week of a marathon
Let’s start with the idea that the majority of runners are not doing carb loading correctly and likely don’t need to make a drastic shift in their diet.
We don’t want to do new things on marathon day…why would you want to make massive changes to your normal habits the week of the race?
- Eat normally until 2-3 days before the race
- Continue eating fiber up to then and then still include some to keep things move
- 3 days before the race make sure at least 50-60% of your calories come from easy to digest carbs
- 2 days before the race again aim for at least 60%
- 1 day before the race see if you can get closer to 70-80%
I’ve seen some recommend up to 90% of your diet in those days be from carbs.
But for most runners, I find that volume has felt overwhelming or they’re just craving some actual substance through protein. So be less tied to the number and more focused on rest, recovery and not walking all day in the expo.
MUST READ: AVOID these seven carb loading mistakes >>
What are easy to digest carbohydrates?
Easy to digest carbohydrates don’t mean sugar and sweets. Though they are delicious, we don’t want to increase inflammation or cause energy swings.
- Juice – one of the few times we’ll recommend it here because usually we want the fiber of a smoothie
- Bagels – or I love sourdough because it often helps to calm the stomach due to the fermentation
- Rice – white rice has less fiber
- Potatoes – go crazy with regular potatoes or sweet potatoes, just watch the butter or heavy fats the day before the race
- Oatmeal – throw in some ground flax for extra anti-inflammatory goodness
- Pancakes, waffles, enjoy the muffin you might often overlook
- Berries, bananas, cantaloupe
Because carbohydrates cause the body to retain water (we want well hydrated muscles for the race) it’s absolutely common to gain weight while running.
This is 2 DAYS, you are not gaining fat. It’s water.
I dig Betty Crockers style of throwing in some chocolate chips!
What do I eat the night before a marathon?
Think about a light meal.
That’s right, I’m not a fan of the traditional pasta dinner. Unless this is what you’ve been doing with success throughout training.
Most runners report feeling groggy and weighed down in the morning after eating a massive bowl of pasta and breadsticks.
Easy at home meal from Wellbeing.
You want to arrive to the race feeling light, fresh and not like your body is digesting a massive dinner after what was probably not your best night of sleep.
A few options:
- A couple slices of pizza
- Salmon and potatoes (personally salmon and sweet potato fries is my favorite pre-race dinner)
- A sandwich – love sourdough to help the stomach, plus get in a little protein and throw in some avocado
- Chicken stir fry with white rice and light on the high fiber veggies
Notice the options are low fiber, probably a little lower in fat and higher in carbs. But nothing crazy.
What to eat the morning of a marathon?
Marathon morning is a little different than many of your long runs. You can’t simply eat and get going.
Rather you’ll be awake and likely moving around for hours before crossing the starting line.
2-3 hours Pre-race
While still in your hotel or home, try having oatmeal with nut butter and berries OR a bagel with 2 tbsp nut butter. Something with a little substance to it.
On the way to the race
If you didn’t get in a ton for breakfast (and no 200 calories isn’t enough) then try eating a banana (I LOVE the banana wrapped in a tortilla idea above easy to transport and eat on the bus, at the start, etc) or a Clifbar. Again, these are still easy to digest carbs.
**Note: Bananas actually help to soothe the stomach. So not only are they a great carb for fuel, but also if you’re feeling nervous and extra bonus points for the potassium, vitamin C and other good stuff.
when your wave is ready to go eat a Honey Stinger Waffle or your favorite gel – you absolutely want some carbs right then because of that big time gap.
Throughout all of this try sipping electrolytes. You don’t want to feel bloated, so just sip consistently.
Looking for additional marathon tips?
- How to pace your marathon?
- Best fueling strategy for the marathon
- How to deal with race day nerves
- What to wear for the marathon
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