What to Eat Before, During, and After Running a Marathon

Fall is here & there’s a sure sign in the fitness world: you’re about to ask your body to run 26.2 miles. It’s marathon season! Of course, you’re not just going to jump off the couch and hit the road; if you’re planning to partake, you’ve been sweating out the miles little by little every day for the past few months. But now that the big day is upon you, how can you ensure your body won’t give you the middle finger & shut down? You can’t only sip H2O the whole time & expect peak performance. You’ve heard the saying “food is fuel?” It’s totally true – and now’s the time to feed your body the premium brand.

Before the Marathon
CARRRRBS! Who doesn’t love carbs?! Before your marathon, you’ll get to eat them in spades. Just be sure you’re choosing high-quality foods…sorry, now is not the time to eat an XL pizza to yourself! (In fact, you’ll want to avoid fatty foods at all costs – it will likely just make your stomach turn). In the 4 hours before you start, fill the tank with a mix of carbs & protein that are easy to digest. This will keep you full longer, decrease muscle breakdown, and deliver your nutrients gradually.

Meal Ideas:

  • Oatmeal with milk & a banana
  • 2 slices of wholegrain toast with 1/2-tsp peanut butter, a banana, and a glass of OJ
  • Wholegrain pasta with spinach & diced tomato

Snack Ideas:

  • Carrot sticks & hummus
  •  2 hardboiled eggs & skinless turkey breast
  • Cottage cheese & a handful of almonds

During the Marathon
Of course you won’t be running to a drive-thru mid-race, but if you’ve been going hard for more than an hour, you need to replenish some of your energy. Carbohydrates, especially with sugar mixed in, are your best bet at this point.

Try:

After the Marathon
It’s vital to replace your fully-depleted glycogen stores (AKA muscle fuel or energy) after putting so much stress on your body for so long. It’s best to aim for a snack 15-30 minutes afterwards, and then again every 2 hours for the next 6 hours. This is where protein is key – it helps to repair muscles so your recovery will be quicker. A mix of protein and carbs is even better. Again, you’ll want to avoid high-fat foods as much as possible today because it will affect your body’s carb & protein absorption.

Try:

  • Smoothie made with Greek yogurt, low-fat milk, a banana, honey, and blueberries
  • Wholegrain bagel with peanut butter
  • 3 eggs and a tuna sandwich
  • Quinoa and a baked chicken breast
  • Tofu with mixed vegetables & brown rice
  • Low-fat chocolate milk & a banana

5 thoughts on “What to Eat Before, During, and After Running a Marathon

  1. Brilliant post, really informative.
    Now reading your post got me wondering, I hosted a Kenya marathon runner in my home once and asked why East Africans are good at long distance running compared to West Africa or other parts of Africa and he told me that East Africans mostly have a diet of carbohydrates and maybe milk and nothing more.
    Do you think this makes sense?

    1. That’s definitely an interesting theory! Carbs are the body’s fuel & we all know milk “does a body good” so if that’s true, perhaps there’s something to it!

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