Whether you are training for your first or 50th marathon, fueling is always worth revisiting before you toe the line for 26.2. After all the months of training, you want to ensure you give your body what it needs to carry you through the miles ahead. We have a plan to keep your engine firing through the finish.
Eat This: Pasta with marinara sauce, topped with a generous helping of Parmesan cheese (or salt), or a plate of pancakes. Keep the veggies to a minimum this one night. A slice or two of bread or a cookie for dessert is fine.
Why: This meal, high in easily digested carbs and low in fiber, will keep your tummy happy. Be sure not to eat anything unfamiliar. More is not necessarily better; you should eat until comfortably full—not overstuffed.
When: Plan dinner on the early side, at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. You want to give your body time to digest and stock your muscles full of glycogen before you try to get some shut-eye.
Eat and Drink This: A small bowl of low-fiber cereal with milk, low-fat yogurt and a banana, or an energy bar. Drink 8 to 12 ounces of water.
Why: Never go to bed hungry on the eve of a marathon. A carb-rich snack will keep you full and promote a restful sleep.
When: Schedule your snack an hour to 30 minutes before you hit the sack.
Eat This: Toast with peanut butter and a banana or oat-meal with raisins.
Why: Again, you want familiar, easily digestible carbs. You will likely still be half asleep when your alarm wakes you at 4:30 a.m., but start thinking about breakfast.
When: For early races, you may only be awake for 2 hours before you start running, so try to get breakfast in ASAP. For later starts, you will want to eat a staggered two-part breakfast: Eat the first half shortly after you wake up and the second 2 to 3 hours before your race start time.
FINAL PRE-RACE FUEL
Drink This: Sports drink or pre-race carb-energy drink.
Why: This will provide you with a last bit of fuel to be used as soon as the gun goes off.
When: Enjoy this 5 to 10 minutes prior to race start.
DURING THE RACE
Drink and Eat This: Sports drink; gels, energy chews or energy bars; and salt packets or electrolyte tablets.
Why: Fuel early and often to avoid issues associated with having an empty tank (feeling dizzy, lightheaded, hitting the wall and muscle cramping).
When: Every 15 to 20 minutes have 6 to 8 ounces of sports drink, and every 30 to 45 minutes eat your preferred gel, chews or bars. Add salt or electrolytes at least one or two times (around miles 10 and 20), or more if you are a salty sweater. Make sure you’ve practiced this fueling plan during your long runs so you don’t run into any surprises on race day.
POST-RACE RECOVERY NUTRITION
Drink and Eat This: A recovery drink with at least 40 grams of carbs and 20 grams of protein. Plus, grab a turkey sandwich and fruit, if your race happens to serve that, or ask a friend to have this meal ready for you at the finish.
Why: What you consume in the hour post-race will greatly affect how you feel in the upcoming days. Do you want to fall into the 40 percent of marathoners who end up with a cold afterward or have enough energy to celebrate your race?!
When: Once you have crossed the finish line and raised your arms in glory, you should begin thinking about recovery nutrition. Consider it your victory meal. Immediately begin consuming fluids.