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.
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 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.
* Beginner's guidelines as recommended by the London Marathon.
It's the day before the big race. Whilst 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.
Crunchy granola with berries & cherries
Make your breakfast a fruity feast – this recipe is full of satisfying texture and goodness.
Fruit, oat & seed bars
A tasty twist on flapjacks with a luscious layer of apricots inside.
Rice & bean enchiladas
Filling and great value for money, try these Mexican-inspired vegetarian wraps for a speedy and spicy supper.
Spanish tomato bread with jamon Serrano
These tasty tapas snacks are ready in just five minutes.
Bacon & mushroom pasta
A simple one-pan pasta dish with bacon, mushrooms and pesto – ready in under 30 minutes.
Dessert/evening snack (optional)
Brilliant banana loaf
Perfect for using up over-ripe bananas, this is a seriously moreish treat. As mentioned, only eat a dessert or evening snack if you usually do in order to feel comfortable on race day tomorrow.
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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