While training is an essential aspect of preparing for a marathon, nutrition can sometimes be overlooked. However, fueling your body with the right nutrients is crucial to ensure optimal performance on race day.
With that said, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to pre-race nutrition, but there are general guidelines that can be followed.
I had a chat with Abi Roberts, a Sports Nutritionist at Bulk Powders shares her nutrition recommendations in the lead-up to race day.
Here are two primary recommendations to consider in the lead-up to race day:
- Meet your energy needs: Try to avoid under-eating or overeating, ensuring you aim to strike a balance in your energy intake. Eating too little or too much may negatively impact your performance, as you’ll either be feeling full and sluggish on race day, or you will not be adequately fuelled and will fail to meet the unforgiving energy demands of a marathon.
- Carbohydrate loading: This is an essential strategy for marathon runners. Gradually increasing your carbohydrate intake in the days leading up to the race can help to optimise your glycogen stores, providing your muscles with the necessary fuel to perform at their best. The recommended approach is to start increasing your carbohydrate intake three to four days before the race, and target a daily intake of 10-12 g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight within 36-48 hours of the event. Sources of carbohydrates can include pasta, rice, potatoes, oats, bagels, and other foods you’re familiar with and regularly consume. It’s also recommended to avoid high-fibre foods during this time, as they may cause digestive issues on race day. By following a proper carb-loading strategy, you can ensure that you have the energy reserves you need to perform at your best during the marathon.
Preparing for a marathon requires adequate support and planning to ensure you perform optimally. Here are some other steps you can take to support yourself in the lead-up to the event:
- Taper your training: Gradually reduce your mileage and intensity in the weeks leading up to the race to allow your body to recover and build up energy reserves.
- Eat a balanced diet: In addition to increasing your carbohydrate intake, aim to eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including lean protein, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables.
- Hydrate well: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to ensure you are adequately hydrated leading up to the race.
- Limit processed foods: Avoid processed and high-fat foods that may cause digestive issues or weigh you down on race day.
- Get enough sleep: Adequate sleep is essential for physical and mental recovery. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night leading up to the race.
- Practise your nutrition plan: Experiment with different nutrition strategies during training to find what works best for you. Stick to what you know on race day to avoid any surprises.
- Prepare for race day: Plan your pre-race meal, pack your race day gear, and familiarise yourself with the course and race day logistics.
- Manage stress: Marathon training and race day can be stressful. Practice stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to keep your mind and body relaxed.
- Listen to your body: Pay attention to any aches, pains, or injuries leading up to the race. It’s never recommended to run on any major niggles!