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 needs 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.
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 into the race.
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 minute easy run
* Beginner's guidelines as recommended by the London Marathon.
48 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!
Mexican beans & avocado on toast
This vibrant, vegan breakfast contains a good balance of nutrients to start the day.
This muffin recipe contains fibre-rich prunes and oats. Tuck in!
Tuna sweet potato jackets
If your standby lunch is baked potatoes with tuna, switch to sweet potatoes and a fresh, spicy topping. This is budget-friendly and low-fat too.
Peach Melba smoothie
Blend peaches, raspberries, orange juice and fresh custard into a fruity, creamy shake that's low in fat.
Cajun blackened chicken with supergreen quinoa
Chicken breasts provide valuable lean protein and are perfect paired with a colourful quinoa-based salad.
Apple & blackberry crumble
Fruit is a good source of antioxidants and carbohydrates – ideal for increasing your overall carb intake. Enjoy!
Find more expert advice and answers to your training questions in our marathon hub.
This article was 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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