10 Fueling Tips For Marathoners

by Tara Martine, MS, RD, LDN

Wise marathon preparation is a holistic endeavor. Sleep, recovery, cross-training, and most of all, nutrition, all play essential roles. Ask any experienced runner: the right foods, eaten in the right quantities and at the right times, can make all the difference when race day arrives. Here are ten nutrition tips any runner would be smart to follow:

1. Winners plan ahead.

Many marathoners wait until a week or two before the big event before thinking about their diet. But race nutrition is much more than five days of carb loading. Start thinking about what you’ll eat at least a couple months before the race. As you’ll see below, there’s a lot to do.

2. Stomachs need training too.

About eight weeks before your race, figure out which brands and types of sports nutrition products settle best in your stomach. The only way to determine this is to experiment. Simulate your race-day nutrition plan during your long workouts. Aim for 30-60 grams of carbohydrates, 24-48 oz. of water, and 400-800 mg sodium per hour.

3. Plan your final meal.

Within a month of the race you should have your race-day meal plan dialed in as well. General guidelines are 1-2 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight 1-2 hours before the race, OR 3-4 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight 3-4 hours before. Practice eating a variety of breakfast foods before your long runs to see how they digest. Avoid high fat foods because fat takes a long time to digest. Good options are bananas, toast, oatmeal, bagels, fruit, cereal, potatoes or rice.

4. Be good to your body during race week.

During taper week, the goal is to rest your body and full recover from all the hard work you’ve put in. Replenish with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Avoid processed foods. Shoot for 70% of your total calories from high carbohydrate foods.

5. Don’t worry about your weight.

Don’t be alarmed if you gain weight during taper week. For every gram of stored glycogen, the body stores three grams of water, which is used to help convert the stored carbs into energy once you begin racing. So drink plenty of water and relax.

6. Load up on nitrates.

Everyone knows about carbs, but few realize how important nitrates are to performance. Nitrates, found in plant foods like beets, argula and swiss chard, are converted into nitric oxide, a potent vasodilator that increases blood flow to the heart and working muscles. A good idea is to drink eight daily ounces of a performance juice like Beet Performer for seven days prior to your race, and another eight ounces the morning of the race.

7. Eat your pre-race dinner early.

Eat an early high-carbohydrate, low-fat meal to ensure that your body has enough time to fully digest and eliminate everything. Avoid foods that can trigger heartburn including spicy foods, high-fat foods deep-fried foods, highly acidic foods like tomatoes, chocolate or mint. Foods that are lower in fiber, like regular spaghetti, may help prevent diarrhea, intestinal cramping and bloating.

8. Don’t try anything new on race day.

The biggest rule of thumb for race-day nutrition is don’t try anything new. Eat the breakfast that you have perfected over the last month at the time that works best for you.

9. Fluids matter.

If you normally consume coffee in the mornings, then do so on race day. Hot tea or coffee often helps clear out your bowels before the gun goes off. Hydrate yourself with 1.5-2.5 cups of fluid 2-3 hours before the race. This will ensure you are fully hydrated and allow enough time to void excess fluid before the race starts.

10. Add carbs a half-hour before the gun.

To top off your energy stores, you might want to consume 15-30 grams of carbs within 30 minutes of the event start in the form of a gel, chews, or sports drink.

Following a thoughtful nutrition program will give you confidence once your race starts. So plan early, follow the plan, then get out there and enjoy your day. You’ve worked hard for it!

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TARA MARTINE, overall women’s winner of the 2014 Savannah (GA) Rock ‘N Roll Marathon, is a registered dietitian, licensed dietitian/nutritionist, and founder/owner of Whole Impact Nutrition. She specializes in wellness, sports, and plant-based nutrition.

I’ve heard so many people say that they can eat what they like because they work out. The reason they usually say this is because of the concept that calories in vs. calories out will help you lose weight. While that’s true, what you put into your body really does matter, whether you exercise or not. Let’s take a look at why nutrition is the most important part of health and fitness:


Your Body Composition


While you might technically ‘lose weight’ from exercising and eating what you want, you
won’t change your body composition. You’ll probably just become something called skinny fat. This means you still have a high body fat percentage (unhealthy and podgy) even though your actual frame has gotten smaller. When you change your body composition, you lose fat and build muscle in all of the right places, giving you an all round tighter and fitter appearance. You can only change your body composition if you’re eating the right foods at the right times. Organic whey protein powder is a brilliant supplement for after a weight workout. Much better than a burger and chips!




Many people take on an ‘if it fits your macros’ approach. This means they can pretty much eat whatever they like providing it fits into their set protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake. Burger and chips included! While this may work for some people, it won’t work for all. Plus, you need to consider the health aspects of things too. If you want to be healthy and not just look it, you need to eat like it!




The food we eat is fuel. It’s as simple as that. It keeps us going and allows us to go about our day with ease. More people need to look at food as fuel, rather than as a way to pass the time. You can still enjoy your food, but its main purpose shouldn’t be enjoyment. Having a treat every once in a while is so much better than having them every day. Each time you eat something, ask yourself whether it’s beneficial to your body. Is it nourishing you and fueling you? If not, you should re-think your food choices.


image from Flickr



We all get cravings from time to time. We’re only human! Fitness professionals love chocolate and doughnuts like everybody else. However, the body will get more cravings for what it eats most of. If you get into a consistent routine with vegetables, you’ll find yourself wanting to eat more of them. If you get into a routine with chocolate and crisps, then you’re going to want more of them too. It’s a vicious cycle. You need to break bad habits and introduce new ones to really make a change to your body!


Hopefully, you now see why nutrition is the most important part of health and fitness. Staying active is important, but if your diet isn’t on point you won’t get very far. Don’t listen to people who say they can eat pizza everyday and stay in shape!


If you're trying to decide what supplement you want to take post Black Friday take a look at the above chart. Each protein is slightly different.

My newfound gem for healthy cooking? Coconut oil. If you are a fan of coconut, you will find that this oil adds a light coconut flavour to your food, not to mention the health benefits are abundant! Yes, coconut oil is a saturated fat, which some might say are "bad" but the way that it reacts in the body is GOOD! Here's how it works: coconut oil is nature's richest source of medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. Due to the fact that MCTs have a shorter chain it is easy to digest and quickly burned off by the liver for energy but without the spike in insulin. This causes a metabolism boost and uses the coconut oil fat for energy, thus causing you to lean out. I use organic extra virgin coconut oil on practically everything! I sauté my veggies in it and even use it when cooking my eggs in the morning! Here is my favourite dinner recipe using this gem. This dish will pump up your metabolism and give you a healthy dose of your omega-3s!

(Serves 2)


16 ounces Atlantic salmon filets (with skin on)
2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 lemon wedges


1. Preheat oven to 350º
2. Smear 2 tablespoons coconut oil on the bottom of a rectangular baking dish
3. Place fish on top of the oil, skin side up
4. Place fish in oven for 15 minutes
5. Remove fish from oven and use a spatula to gently peel skin off of salmon
6. Place fish back in oven for an additional 15 minutes
7. Remove fish from oven and squeeze on your lemon
8. Sprinkle on your salt and cayenne pepper evenly
9. Cut into 2 servings and plate

That's it! Such a simple recipe and you can mix it up with different spices and flavours but don't forget the coconut oil!  Serve your fish with some nice green veggies and a salad to complete your meal. Enjoy!