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.
With an increase in the number of runners following a vegetarian diet (or even ‘flexitarian’ one, including meat with some meals), we have put together a plan for a week’s worth of meals leading up to the marathon to suit those requirements. A well-structured vegetarian diet should deliver the main macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat) required during training, but vegetarians should also make sure they are getting enough iron and B12 (both important for energy production).
While these recipes provide a good framework, there will also be times where an extra serving of higher-protein foods (such as dairy, pulses, grains, nuts and seeds) can be added to meals to increase the overall daily intake.
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!
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!
Aubergine rolls with spinach & ricotta
This spin on Italian ‘melanzane alla Parmigiana’ is quick to prepare and makes a deliciously creamy, veggie bake.
Peach Melba smoothie
Blend peaches, raspberries, orange juice and fresh custard into a fruity, creamy shake that’s low in fat.
Lentil & sweet potato curry
A storecupboard spice pot with red and green lentils, chickpeas and coriander. Serve with yogurt and naan bread.
Apple & blackberry crumble
Fruit is a good source of antioxidants and carbohydrates – ideal for increasing your overall carb intake. Enjoy!
Go back to the week-long vegetarian 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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