April 2015 – Nutritional Support for Running a Marathon 

With the start of the warmer weather and the marathon season, all types of joggers are out and about attempting to get fit and healthy. However, what you eat can make all the difference to your performance and wear and tear on the body.

The aim of a nutritional program for a marathon is to help your body healthily build up the right energy reserves for the marathon and accomplish recovery and tissue repair, speedily and efficiently. Eating enough of the right foods in the right balance will enhance your achievement and keep you from injury keeping you be fit and healthy.



You will need high quality protein several times a day;

You need a hand sized piece of protein or 1gm of protein per kg of body weight as a minimum per meal 3x a day.

Choose from;

  • Egg-6.3g/1oz each
  • Cheese-cottage-14g/4oz
  • Milk-skimmed-8.4g/8oz
  • Yoghurt-10g/8oz
  • Chicken-6gm/1oz
  • Lamb-6.5g/1oz
  • Beef-5.5gm/1oz
  • Ham-6g/1oz
  • Bacon-11.3g/2slices
  • Turkey-6g/1oz
  • Tuna-14g/2oz
  • Sardines 14g/2oz
  • Salmon 14g/2oz
  • Other fish-5g/1oz
  • Soya-tofu/other soya products

You also need high quality carbohydrates several times a day.

This should consist of wholegrains which are slower burning energy than white refined grains and stop the spikes of blood sugar highs and lows from fast acting carbohydrates which can cause fatigue in your training or on your marathon.

Choose from;

  • Wholemeal bread (Hovis high fibre white variety is fine)
  • Wholegrain cereals (lower sugar types) such as porridge, Cherrios, Quakers Oat Krunchies, Quaker Oat Bran Krispies, Shreddied Wheat, Wheatabix
  • Fruit especially bananas and apples
  • Lower sugar varieties of cereal bars eg Fruesli/ Brunch Bars
  • Wholemeal rice
  • Wholemeal pasta
  • Jacket potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Rye
  • Barley

Keep up your intake of “good fats” such as olive oil, nuts and seeds, oily fish, avocado’s.

Eat 3 meals a day and also 3 small snacks inbetween to keep up blood sugar levels and hence energy. Always have equal protein and complex carbohydrate snacks.

Best Examples;

  1. Fresh fruit with some nuts and seeds – slow release energy and protein for muscle recovery PLUS essential fatty acids to reduce inflammation
  2. Wholemeal chicken and salad sandwich – slow release energy and protein for muscle recovery
  3. Apple and cottage cheese – slow release energy and protein for muscle recovery
  4. Palm – full of seeds and a small banana in yoghurt – high in essential fatty acids for reducing inflammation with protein for muscle renewal
  5. Half an avocado with tuna or prawns – high in essential fatty acids for reducing inflammation with protein for muscle renewal
  6. Organic corn chips and hummous – slow release energy and protein for muscle recovery
  7. Oat cakes and ham
  8. Rice cakes with 3 nut butter or Peanut butter
  9. Low fat Babybel with a Satsuma
  10. Walnuts or almonds with fruit – and magnesium and slow release sugar

Drink 8 glasses of water a day – dehydration can effect athletic performance.  You should urinate once every 2 hours to show good hydration. Thirst is not a good indicator of hydration. Remember caffeine dehydrates you.

Improve your performance by drinking during the run.

Sample Menu for the two days preceding a marathon

Day before your Marathon Day of your Marathon
Start upping fuel and hydration for tomorrow. Carbohydrates need to make up bulk of lunch and dinner which will be available for tomorrow


1 WEEK BEFORE eat 55-60% carbs until 3 days before race when you up the carbs to 70%

Start fuelling up 3 hours before you go and aim to consume 300cals for each hour either in one hit or in increments
Breakfast Breakfast
3 hours to go
Porridge and rye 2 eggs with rye toast and porridge with jam
Morning Snack Morning Snack
1 to 1/2 hours to go
Banana with 2Tbs peanut butter on 2 slices rye bread Salted Rice cakes for electrolytes and fast release carbs with almond butter – high in magnesium for the muscles
Baked potato with beans and cheese Straight after run, start sipping a lucozade recovery drink or something equivalent

Then eat a high protein bar.

Afternoon Snack Afternoon Snack
1 Naked bar and handful almonds

Beetroot juice from M&S

Maybe some chocolate!!
Dinner Dinner
Plate of Wholemeal pasta salad with a tin of oily fish such as sardines Whatever you fancy – you deserve it but I would suggest a nice steak and salad with good quality chips or another form of carbohydrate and let yourself have a desert!!


For a Sample Menu for the week preceding a marathon please contact Diana Wright.

Tel/Fax 01494 722777



  1. Wholegrains and low glycaemic carbs release a steady flow of energy to muscles and brain.
  2. Beef is high in iron but also creatine which increases blood oxygen as well as reducing mental fatigue and boosts cognitive performance.
  3. Ground Flax seeds or linseeds (available in Holland and Barratt) contain Alpha linolenic acid- improves functioning of the cerebral cortex which helps your spacial awareness and motor skills plus acts as an anti-inflammatory to reduce muscle pain and stiffness after the run. Add a teaspoon or 2 to your porridge.
  4. Tyrosine available in chicken and tahini or sesame seeds reduces brain fatigue on the run and improves performance.
  5. Beetroot increases nitrate which the body and converts to nitrous oxide which helps motivation and attention and widens blood vessels for more oxygen flow.
  6. Walnuts contain vitamin E which protects your essential fatty acids from oxidation and is beneficial for blood vessels in the brain and also cognitive function important in concentration.
  7. Choline is in eggs which will help the legs respond to the brain messaging system more efficiently and prevents fatigue for longer in the last miles.
  8. Magnesium is in almonds that reduces cramps in the muscles.
  9. DHA in eggs and avocado helps boost metal focus in a run and especially before a run.
  10. Don’t forget the Epson salt baths after your run and perhaps try one this week – 1/2 a tea cup in a bath-will relax your muscles and help them recover.

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