Ideal foods to eat before your marathon

Now the big day is here!  What are your best food choices for race morning?

Before you decide exactly which foods to eat, review our guidelines for what to eat before your training run.

If you are reading this the day before your race, you should probably stick to what has worked for you in the past. Don’t be tempted to change anything. If you have not yet settled on a pre-race menu, here are options that work.

Foods to eat before the race should be foods that can easily be found in a regular grocery store.  Try each of these during training to see how they work for you.  You don’t want to have settled on  Ensure High Protein drink and only that and then discover it is sold out when you get to the store (yes this can happen when a lot of runners converge on an area.)

How much you eat depends on how early you get up.  You want to take in 200 – 300 calories PER HOUR you have left before the start of the marathon.  So if you get up 2 hours before the race, eat 400 – 600 calories.  If your pre-race dinner was early, say 12 hours ago, then take in the higher amount of calories.

Here are specific recommendations:

Fruit with eggs

Boiled eggs travel well and scrambled eggs are easy to find in hotel restaurants.  Choose fruit that is low in fiber such as:

  • bananas,
  • peaches,
  • cantaloupe,
  • honeydew, and
  • watermelon.

Fruits to avoid due to their high fiber content are:

  • apples,
  • berries,
  • dates,
  • figs,
  • grapes,
  • pears,
  • mango,
  • papaya and
  • pineapple.

If you are travelling remember to pack utensils you will need.

Applesauce mixed with protein powder

Make sure you get unsweetened applesauce. Stir in 2-3 tbsp of powdered egg or whey protein.  You can carry the powder in a small baggie with you, no need to bring the whole container.

Baby Food is always a good choice
You can usually find it anywhere and it is easily digestible.   You can even eat the meats if you could tolerate the taste pre-race.

Liquid meals are my standby
Due to nerves I often find I can’t manage whole foods.  I just can’t chew them.  This is more true for an Ironman race than a marathon but I always have a liquid back-up just in case.

You can blend low-fiber fruit (listed above), fruit juice and 2-3 tbsp of protein powder.  Sometimes I carry a Magic Bullet blender with me.

Another stand-by is Ensure High Protein.  You can find it in the baby aisle of most grocery stores.  I use this almost exclusively before long bike rides now.  It can be expensive but if you keep your eyes open you can find coupons in the Sunday paper.

Sports bar with protein

This doesn’t work well for me as I have trouble chewing them when nervous.  But many of my fellow runners eat them exclusively before a run.  These must be taken with a good amount of water. They are quite dry and can draw your fluids into the gut to help with digestion.

Drink plenty of fluid, including water

There is no reason not to have your morning coffee or tea just be SURE you have practiced this beforehand.  Caffeine speeds up your metabolism which can lead to upset stomach and nervousness – which is not ideal before your big race.

During the last hour before the race ONLY drink water.  Drinking fluid with sugar, such as a sports drink,  may cause low blood sugar leading to light-headedness.  (Of course that could be your nerves!)   Often digesting carbohydrates lead to a spike in insulin which causes a drop in blood sugar.  This is especially true of the high-glycemic carbs found in sports drinks.

However, 10 minutes before the start is a good time to take in 100 – 200 calories from a sports drink or gel. By the time these carbs hit your blood stream you will be running and the exercise effort will blunt the insulin effect.  Be sure to take this with 6-8 oz of water.

To make sure you get to race morning in optimal shape, read our guide to what to eat during marathon week.

After the marathon you will want to be able to celebrate your achievement.  Follow our guidelines for recovery nutrition to ensure you have energy for the party that night.

One Response to “Ideal foods to eat before your marathon”

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  1. Laura says:

    WHat should a Varsity BB team (girls) eat for lunch and an afternoon snack before a 6pm BB game?