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.
* 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.
This easy pancake batter is a perfect weekend breakfast – top with your favourite fruit.
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.
Banana yogurt pots
These tasty tubs of yogurt, fruit and nuts provide plenty of afternoon fuel.
Butternut squash & sage risotto
An easy, creamy risotto that is full of flavour.
Dessert/evening snack (optional)
Brilliant banana loaf
Perfect for using up overripe 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.
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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