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.
Carbohydrate intake remains raised on Thursday in preparation for carb-loading that begins on Friday. The focus is on complete, high-quality sources of protein at each main meal. Snacks included are optional depending on your preferences.
Coconut quinoa & chia porridge
Supercharge your morning with high-protein quinoa and omega-3-rich chia seeds for a creamy breakfast bowl topped with seasonal fruit.
Cranberry & raspberry smoothie
A low-fat smoothie packed with vitamin C makes a good snack option.
Smoked salmon, quinoa & dill lunch pot
This easy packed lunch is as delicious as it is nutritious, with crunchy cucumber and radishes and a herby, creamy dressing.
Sesame & chilli pancakes with tzatziki
These tasty, gluten-free bites are a great savoury snack.
Herby lamb fillet with caponata served with roasted carrot, rocket & lentil salad
Tick off all of your five-a-day with this superhealthy dinner. To make it vegetarian, omit the lamb and add chickpeas to the caponata.
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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