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.
* Beginner’s guidelines as recommended by the London Marathon.
It’s the day before the big race. While carbohydrates are still the priority to fuel for the race ahead, it’s important to stick to the foods you know – now is not the time to start experimenting with extra spice or fatty dishes, which may cause a stomach upset.
Often the biggest mistake is trying to eat too much the day before and feeling uncomfortable on the morning of the race. Stick to your normal routine here (only have a dessert or an evening snack if you usually have one), so you’re up and ready to eat breakfast before the race.
Kiwi fruit smoothie
This simple kiwi, mango and pineapple fruit smoothie makes an ideal morning treat. It’s an easy way to pack in the vitamins and give yourself a boost.
Fresh topped pizza
Make a quick, gluten-free pizza base, then add your favourite toppings.
Malted walnut seed loaf
With a proper bready texture and good crust, this gluten-free loaf slices well and makes for a good snack.
Spiced salmon with beetroot, feta & wild rice
Enjoy a gluten-free fish salad that’s rich in omega-3, folate and fibre. Seasoned with cumin and caraway, the salmon pairs well with vibrant, sweet beetroot and salty feta.
Dessert/evening snack (optional)
Frozen blackberry yogurt
This easy ice cream alternative is quick to make.
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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