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.
* Beginner’s guidelines as recommended by the London Marathon.
Carbohydrate intake remains raised on Thursday in preparation for carb-loading beginning on Friday. The focus is on complete, high-quality sources of protein at each main meal.
This healthy breakfast, made from toasted oatmeal, spelt and barley, is super simple to make and can be kept for up to six months.
Creamy mango & coconut smoothie
This tropical shake with creamy coconut yogurt, mango and passion fruit is free from dairy and soya.
Black bean, tofu & avocado rice bowl
Mix up your midweek meals with this vegetarian Mexican brown rice and grilled tofu dish.
Frozen fruit sticks
This colourful, sweet snack is a great source of vitamin C.
Spinach, sweet potato & lentil dhal
This veggie one-pot recipe counts as three of your five-a-day. It’s iron-rich and low-fat, too.
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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