marathon nutrition

Fueling for the Finish: A Guide to Marathon Nutrition

August 8th, 2023

When you’re preparing for a race, like a half-marathon or a full one, it’s a good idea to have a solid marathon training nutrition plan. This plan helps keep your body in good shape and your energy levels high before the race starts. Nutrition plays a huge role in marathon training and can be the deciding factor between achieving personal records or hitting a major obstacle known as the ‘wall.’ This detailed guide aims to educate marathon runners about the importance of having a well-thought-out marathon nutrition plan. By understanding the specific nutritional needs of marathon training, you can improve your performance and reach your maximum potential.

Understanding Macronutrients for Marathon Training

A balanced and strategic intake of macronutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats, is vital to support the high-volume, high-intensity demands of marathon training.


Carbohydrates are key for fueling your training sessions. They are stored as glycogen in muscles and the liver, and are the primary source of fuel during high-intensity exercise. To meet the high-energy demands of marathon training, it’s recommended that 60-70% of your daily calories come from carbohydrates. This often translates to around 5-7g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight each day.


Protein is the primary building block for repairing and building tissues, including muscles. Intense training increases the demand for protein to aid in muscle repair and adaptation. Therefore, aim to consume 1.2-2.0g of protein per kilogram of body weight each day.

Healthy Fats

Despite being the most calorie-dense nutrient, fats play an essential role in long-distance running. They become a significant energy source during long training runs and races when glycogen stores become depleted. Including healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, in your marathon nutrition plan can help support sustained energy during long runs.

Marathon Training Diet: Timing Your Meals

Knowing what to eat is just part of the equation. When to eat can be equally important, especially around your training runs.

Pre-Run Fueling

Fueling your body adequately before a run can set the stage for a successful training session. The goal is to optimise glycogen stores and ensure you have enough energy to sustain your run. Ideal pre-run meals are high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein, while low in fat and fibre to ease digestion. A bowl of whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk, a banana, and a spoonful of almond butter can make for an excellent pre-run meal.

Fueling During Runs

For any run exceeding 90 minutes, it becomes necessary to replenish carbohydrate stores on the go. Consuming 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour can help maintain blood glucose levels and delay fatigue. Energy gels, chews, and electrolytes are popular choices for their quick absorption and easy portability.

fueling during runs

Post-Run Recovery

Post-run nutrition is critical for refilling glycogen stores and kickstarting muscle recovery. Aim to consume a mix of carbohydrates and protein within 30-60 minutes post-run, when muscles are most receptive to glycogen synthesis. Chocolate milk, Greek yogurt with fruit, or a turkey and cheese sandwich on whole-grain bread are all effective recovery foods. You can even restore your glycogen levels with several runners recovery drinks to give you that easy boost.

Hydration and Electrolytes Balance in Marathon Training

Staying properly hydrated is essential for maintaining performance during marathon training and racing. Dehydration can lead to reduced blood volume, resulting in the heart having to work harder to pump blood, ultimately impairing performance.

During training and races, aim to drink fluids at regular intervals. Sports drinks can also be beneficial as they provide not only hydration but also carbohydrates and electrolytes.

The Marathon Race Day Nutrition Plan

Successfully executing your marathon race day nutrition can be the difference between a personal record and a painful slog to the finish line.

Pre-Race Breakfast

Start your race day with a carbohydrate-rich breakfast 2-3 hours before the start. This allows sufficient time for digestion and helps top off your glycogen stores.

Fueling During the Race

Just as in training, consuming carbohydrates during the race is crucial. Plan to consume 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour. Remember, it’s essential to test out your fueling strategy during training to avoid gastrointestinal issues on race day.

Post-Race Recovery

Following the race, focus on rehydration and replenishing glycogen stores with a carbohydrate-rich meal. Also, don’t forget to incorporate protein to aid muscle recovery.

Marathon Nutrition Mistakes to Avoid

Training for a marathon doesn’t just involve clocking miles. It’s also about experimenting with different foods and nutrients to identify what works best for your body. Avoiding common nutrition mistakes can help you get the most out of your training and help you perform your best on race day.

Not Practicing Your Race Day Nutrition

What works best for one runner may not work for another. Experiment with different types and timings of food and fluids during your training to establish what suits you best.

Neglecting Hydration

Hydration is an essential component of marathon training and racing. Always ensure that you’re adequately hydrated before, during, and after your runs. Stay hydrated with a Hydro Flask water bottle that is kitted out with a flexible and durable handle, which makes it a breeze to take with you wherever you go.

Overlooking Recovery Nutrition

Recovery nutrition is critical in promoting muscle repair, replenishing glycogen stores, and reducing fatigue. Neglecting this can hinder your training progress and overall performance.

post workout drink

Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or training for your first 26.2, getting your nutrition right can be a game-changer. The journey to the finish line is long and challenging, but with the correct nutritional strategies, you’re one step closer to achieving your marathon goals. Remember, nutrition is not one-size-fits-all. Experiment, listen to your body, and refine your nutrition plan accordingly.

Stock Up From Pure Running

To sum it up, setting the right marathon training nutrition in place is vital for you to perform at your best. At Pure Running, we have a range of products specifically designed to give you the best marathon nutrition during a race. We have everything from energy gels, hydration supplements and recovery drinks to keep you properly fuelled and hydrated, allowing you to push yourself to the limit and make your PB. Don’t forget that nutrition is just as important to your training plan as stretching and warming up. Give yourself the best chance of smashing those marathon goals and visit Pure Running for all your running needs.