Overall dietary guidelines:
Contrary to previous beliefs, the week before the marathon isn’t all about piling on the pasta. In fact, to maximise carbohydrate (fuel) stores before the race, runners only need to start ‘fuelling up’ or ‘carb-loading’ two or three days before the race (three days if you prefer slower increase in your daily intake). Read more in our guide to carb-loading.
Runners who have coeliac disease, are intolerant to gluten or simply following a gluten-free diet need to plan their meals carefully around the appropriate carbohydrate options to prepare for the race. We have adapted our week-long marathon meal plan to provide options for the week leading up to the event, as well as examples that can be used as part of your wider training or day-to-day routine.
Earlier in the week, it may be useful to start including snacks to train the gut in preparation for increased carbohydrate intake in the days leading up to the marathon.
As a general rule, what you eat should be different depending on the training demands for that day (or when you are preparing for the race itself) to promote sufficient fuelling and recovery. Discover what to eat on different training days with our training meal plans for runners.
We’ve included examples of the race training programme from London Marathon to plan your nutrition for this day.
20 mins easy run
* Beginner’s guidelines as recommended by the London Marathon.
Forty-eight hours of carb-loading begins here! This doesn’t mean grazing on carbohydrate-rich foods all day, but instead, try to focus on including carbohydrate sources in each meal and snack. As you can see from the options, it can be very enjoyable.
Evening snacks are an option to increase your daily carbohydrate intake.
Don’t worry if your body weight increases by 1-2kg in the period before the race as the body stores water alongside the carbohydrate (which is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen). Think of this as fuel in the tank, ready for the race.
Use gluten-free flour in these thin breakfast pancakes served with almond butter, fruit and lemon.
Crisp orange shortbread
This gluten-free, melt-in-the-mouth biscuit recipe is one delicious way to increase your carb intake ahead of the race.
Sweet potato cakes with poached eggs
Try these gluten-free sweet potato cakes with poached eggs for a quick lunch. They’re spiced with harissa to wake up your tastebuds.
These tasty, all-natural nibbles make a speedy snack and energy booster for when you’re on-the-go.
Cajun blackened chicken with supergreen quinoa
Chicken breasts provide valuable lean protein and are perfect paired with a colourful quinoa-based salad.
Rainbow fruit skewers
These vitamin-packed fruit skewers make a tasty evening snack.
Go back to the week-long gluten-free marathon meal plan.
Find more expert advice and answers to your training questions in our marathon hub.
These meal plans were reviewed on 1 September 2021.
James Collins is recognised as a leading Performance Nutritionist through his work with Olympic and professional sport. Over the last decade he has worked with Arsenal FC, the England and France national football teams and Team GB. He has a private practice in Harley Street where he sees business executives, performing artists and clients from all walks of life. He is the author of the new book The Energy Plan, which focuses on the key principles of fuelling for fitness.
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