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.
10 mins marathon pace, 20 mins half-marathon pace, 10 mins marathon pace.
* Beginner's guidelines as recommended by the London Marathon.
Carbohydrate intake is maintained at breakfast and lunch to support training volume for today. Protein and healthy fat intakes are also important for the ongoing growth and repair of the muscles. Options are nutrient-rich and provide sufficient fibre for healthy gut function. Snacks are included as optional depending on your preferences.
Vanilla-almond chia breakfast bowl
This tasty breakfast is similar to a bircher, with porridge oats, blueberries, chia seeds and nuts.
Forest fruit & banana smoothie
For a smooth start to your day, try this ultra-easy breakfast drink.
Chickpea & coriander burgers
High in fibre, low in fat and counting as two of your five-a-day, this tasty veggie burger delivers on every level.
Lemon & coriander hummus
Hummus is so easy to make and beats shop-bought varieties every time. Try it with vegetable crudités in your packed lunch.
Go back to the week-long vegetarian marathon meal plan.
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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