It’s race week! It’s time you put your weeks of training to work and tackle the big 26.2!
Besides mental and physical training, fueling is key to any successful race. What you decide to put in your body can help you run at your best and help in post-race recovery.
If you have a race coming up, you should be thinking about what to eat and what to avoid in the days before your marathon. Below, you’ll find our tips for marathon fueling up to 5 days out from your big race.
4 to 5 days from the race
During several weeks of intense marathon training, your muscles never have a chance to fully reload with glycogen. To build up your energy reserves for race day, you will need to back off on training for a few days, so that muscle enzymes responsible for restocking glycogen will gradually begin to store more carbohydrate.
In addition, boost your total carbohydrate intake to 3.5 to 4 grams for every pound of your body weight by adding in more pastas and starches to your diet throughout the week. If you notice you are gaining too much weight, back off on fat and protein and reduce carb intake until your weight balances out.
Good choices are: Pastas, brown rice, sweet potatoes and baked potatoes.
2 days before the race
You should eat your last big meal two nights before the race. It will give your body enough time to fully digest anything you eat and avoid feeling stuffed and lethargic when you reach the starting line, lowers the risk of stomach problems and can even help you sleep more soundly.
During the two days before the race, also consider limiting high-fiber foods such as large amounts of vegetables, whole grains and bran cereals. Studies conducted by the Australian Institute of Sport show that eating lower fiber foods can help lighten the weight of material in the intestines. This can actually help you run faster, as it reduces your body weight and decreases the chance of a mid-race pit stop that would otherwise add time to your race.
Good choices: Pasta is still often considered one of the best pre-race meals.
24h before the race
Ideally, you should allow your body to rest the two days before the race, so you may feel full very quickly. Try to eat balanced meals like you would normally do on any training day, but make sure your main meals are still in the form of low glycemic to medium glycemic index foods. If you’re not sure about what foods have a low or medium glycemic index, you can check Harvard Health’s Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods or WebMD’s Guide How to Use the Glycemic Index for a more in depth picture of what glycemic index foods do for the body.
Fluids are just as important as food, so it is mandatory to hydrate properly all day long. Opt for sports drinks or other beverages containing electrolytes and nutrients, along with water. To remind yourself to drink, always carry a water bottle with you throughout the day or set a reminder for every other hour.
Good choices are: Sweet potatoes, pastas, baked potatoes, brown rice
2 to 4 hours out
Not only is it important what you choose to eat the day of the race, but also the time you eat. In the two to four hours before the race, eat a small breakfast containing protein, simple carbs and fluids. Aim for 0.5 to one gram of carbs for every pound of body weight and keep protein to about 15 grams or fewer. Avoid high fiber, fatty and new foods, which can take longer to digest and cause stomach problems.
Instead of trying to get all your fluids down by chugging your water bottle the hour prior to the race, you should drink small, regular sized amounts. Opt for room temperature water – which is absorbed quicker than warm or cold water – and drink approximately 6 oz. every hour to get hydrated before the gun goes off.
Good choices are: bread, bagels, cereal, fruit, and small amounts of peanut or almond butter, low-fat cheese, low-fat milk or a fruit smoothie.
Now it is up to you! We wish you a very successful (and fun) race day!