FUELLING…..Marathon Running

April 14, 2022

FUELLING…..Marathon Running

Moving from moderate running to marathon running is a huge jump, and often runners forget to adjust their food plan accordingly. This can lead to a constant feeling of hunger, losing too much weight, getting ill or getting injured…all of which could affect performance. So, to help support YOU with your marathon running we answer the following questions: 

Q1 – What is the aim/goal of nutrition for marathon running?

Q2 – How much and when do you need to eat pre and during a marathon

Q3 – What should you eat pre and during a marathon

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FUELLING…..Marathon Running


Outlining the key goals of nutrition for marathon running including:

  1. Optimal Body mass and anthropometry (physical size, shape, form, and functional capacity)
  2. The body’s capacity to use macronutrients (particularly carbohydrate) to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP – our energy currency) economically over the duration of the event
  3. Maintenance of reasonable hydration status – especially in the face of sweat losses induced by exercise intensity and the environment. Remember hydration is a limiting factor in running performance!!




Discussing a nutrition protocol in the days and hours leading up to a marathon with a focus on HOW MUCH and WHEN to eat including:

Days prior to a marathon event:

  • Carbohydrate loading protocol beginning 36–48hrs prior to the event
  • Consuming carbohydrate in levels between 6-12g/Kg Body Weight/d. This will be very individual
  • Should this protocol be undertaken in conjunction with a low residue (fibre) diet?

Hours prior to a marathon event:

  • Consuming a meal containing between 1–4 g/kg of Body Weight of carbohydrate
  • Consuming a carbohydrate rich meal between 1-4-hrs pre-race
  • Should this meal be low fibre and contain limited protein and fat?

Immediately before a marathon event:

  • Consuming a quick release carbohydrate rich snack
  • Consuming the snack approx. 30mins before the event


Outlining WHEN and HOW MUCH to eat DURING a marathon event including:

  • Consuming quick release carbohydrate rich foods throughout
  • Carbohydrate content of food being between 30-60g
  • Consuming a snack every 45–60 mins


Focusing on WHAT to eat in the days and hours leading up to a marathon event, with some comments on a low vs high fibre diet at this time

Foods to eat in the days prior to a marathon event:

  • Wholegrains
  • Root vegetables
  • Lean Protein
  • Plant-based protein
  • Non-root vegetables

Foods to eat on the morning of a marathon event:

If there is 2-4hrs before the race then consume 2-4g/Kg Body Weight respectively of carbohydrate food sources

  • Wholegrain and root vegetables as carbohydrate choices at this time
  • Lean protein sources
  • Plant-based protein
  • If there is less than 2hrs before the race quick release carbohydrate foods are recommended. For example; white bread, white rice, polenta, white potato

Foods to eat 30mins before a marathon event:

  • Medjool dates
  • Raisins
  • Banana
  • Ella’s Kitchen pouches


Outlining WHAT to eat during a marathon event:

  • Medjool dates
  • Raisins
  • Ella’s Kitchen pouches
  • Natural bars or gels – for example; Honey Stinger, Veloforte, Tribe

Female Factors

FUELLING….Marathon Running

Female runners tend to possess lower VO2max values than male runners and this is thought to be due to factors including:

  • Males having Higher haemoglobin concentrations, which increases oxygen delivery at the maximal cardiac output
  • Males generally having lower fat mass than females

NOTE: VO2 max is the maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise


FUELLING…..Marathon  Running

  1. It is really important to consider your nutrition and food intake when running a marathon, especially your carbohydrate intake
  2. The key aim of nutrition for marathon running is efficient energy production throughout the event and carbohydrate is the principle macronutrient to achieve this
  3. Remember, carbohydrate is one of the limiting factors in exercise performance, with hydration being the other one
  4. Race-day nutrition needs to begin in the few days leading up to the race as well as on the morning of, and during the event. All of these protocol timings are equally important for peak performance
  5. The guidelines suggest a low fibre protocol in the days leading up to a marathon but, although this approach may have some advantages, it also has several disadvantages including: A reduction in micronutrient density, food cravings and poor food choices
  6. FINALLY…..PRACTICE during training because practice, practice, practice is the key to success

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The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.

Remember we are available to support you if required contact us at hello@ runnershealthhub.com

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