October 28, 2019

What to Eat When You’re Training for a Marathon

Before, during + after nutrition tips

Athletes drinking water and electrolytes during a marathon

Figuring out exactly what your nutrition needs are when you’re training hard and logging so many miles can be difficult.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

That’s complicated even further by the fact that many marathoners find they gain weight when they train because their hunger levels shoot up fast.

If this applies to you, wellness expert Michael Roizen, MD, recommends adding more protein to your diet and spacing out meals with a couple of healthy snacks (think almonds and fruit).

As you get closer to race day, thinking about your nutrition is even more important. You have to prepare your body for the intensity of covering 26.2 miles.

Here’s what he recommends eating for performing your best:

Two weeks out – Start hydrating by drinking more water and adding more complex carbohydrates, like whole-grain foods and vegetables to your diet.

Advertisement

Three days before the raceComplex carbohydrates should make up about 70% of your diet, fat 20% and protein 10%.

The night before the race – No new foods! Stay as bland as possible to avoid any gastrointestinal distress. A little grilled chicken, whole grains and veggies are great. Water, water, water.

Three hours before the race – A healthy breakfast of 800 to 1,200 calories will give you energy stores that last. Try oatmeal, a whole-grain bagel or nonfat yogurt. Drink plenty of water and skip the fatty foods, which can aggravate your stomach. Drink coffee if you’re used to it, but don’t go overboard ― or else you may be spending more time in the Port-O-Potties than on the road.

During the race – Keep drinking water, but also add a sports drink that replenishes the electrolytes, sodium and potassium you will burn after the first hour and a half. Energy gels are fine (provided you have trained with them and know they won’t upset your stomach).

Advertisement

After the race – More sports drink to replace lost nutrients. Also make sure to have something light to replace blood sugar levels, like fruit or whole-grain pretzels, and some of that lean protein.

This article was adapted from the best-selling book “What to Eat When” by Michael F. Roizen, MD, and Micheal Crupain, MD, MPH with Ted Spiker (©2018 National Geographic Books)

Related Articles

Older couple standing in kitchen taking vitamins
February 26, 2024
Do Men and Women Really Have Different Nutrition Needs?

When it comes to getting proper nutrition, your assigned sex can play a role — but there’s more to it than that

Various cuts of red meat displayed
February 14, 2024
Is Red Meat Bad for You?

It has nutrients your body needs, but it also comes with some serious health risks

A roasted pork chop on a mound of vegetables with sauce, displayed in a white bowl
February 12, 2024
Is Pork Red or White Meat? And Is It Healthy?

Despite what you may have heard, pork is actually red meat (and it comes with the same risks as other red meats)

Flaxseed sprinkled on a salad in a white bowl on a dark wooden table
January 31, 2024
Flaxseed: A Little Seed With Big Health Benefits

Ground flaxseed is full of heart-healthy omega-3s, antioxidants and fiber, and easy to add to just about any recipe

Top view of a bowl of chili topped with sour cream and jalapeños with tortilla chips for dipping.
November 23, 2023
Recipe Adventure: How To Build a Better Bowl of Chili

From meat to beans, we’ve got some ideas to help you create the perfect-for-you chili recipe

Muffins and sweetbreads with frosting on trays at bakery.
November 21, 2023
13 Foods That You Didn’t Know Contain Dairy

Be sure to check the labels of common foods like canned tuna, bread, hot dogs and chocolate

Person during a consultation with their dietitian.
November 8, 2023
Could You Have a Fructan Intolerance?

A low-FODMAP elimination diet can help identify your symptoms

Closeup of a chocolate souffle with strawberry garnish on dark plate.
November 6, 2023
Recipe: Decadent Chocolate Soufflé

Only 130 calories per serving, this dessert deserves your attention

Trending Topics

close up of keto gummies
Do Keto Gummies Work for Weight Loss? Are They Safe?

Research is inconclusive whether or not these supplements are helpful

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

Older person postioned sideways showing dowager hump.
Dowager’s Hump: What It Is and How To Get Rid of It

The hump at the base of your neck may be caused by osteoporosis or poor posture

Ad