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.
Following increased interest from runners on the matter of vegan sports nutrition, we have put together a plan for a week's worth of meals leading up to the marathon which is entirely plant-based. A vegan diet needs careful planning to ensure that protein needs are met during training to support the growth and repair of muscles. Vegans also need to ensure that they're getting enough of the key micronutrients such as iron, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D and iodine.
While these recipes provide a good framework, there will also be times where an extra serving of higher-protein foods (such as pulses, grains, nuts and seeds) can be added to meals to increase the overall daily intake. Most plant-based foods don’t contain all nine of the essential amino acid 'building blocks' required to make them a 'complete protein', but this can be achieved through variety and different meal combinations.
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.
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!
Mexican beans & avocado on toast
This vibrant, vegan breakfast contains a good balance of nutrients to start the day.
Vegan breakfast muffins
These easy vegan breakfast muffins with muesli and pecans are perfect for making ahead of time and freezing in batches for a quick morning snack.
Beetroot, hummus & crispy chickpea sub sandwich
Load up a sub with homemade hummus, beetroot, chickpeas and salad to make this filling vegan lunch.
Sweet potato crisps
If you love potato crisps, try these crunchy sweet potato slices roasted in olive oil.
Veggie protein chilli
A protein-packed vegan chilli is perfect after a run or workout. This easy supper is simple to make and freezable if you want to batch cook.
Go back to the week-long vegan 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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