Preparation

What to Eat on Marathon Day

Cereal and bananas are great fuel for running

There is a golden rule that is being observed, and it was something that I have also adhered to in my running until recently. The rule says: do nothing different immediately before a marathon. The rule still stands true, but with a little twist.

One of the things I took into serious consideration when preparing for a marathon was eating the right foods. I don’t joke about my nutrition whether I’m going to run 5K, 10K, or a full marathon. I have always kept this in mind that the longer the race, the more significant the role of nutrition will be. This is why I’ve gone out of my way to map out an appropriate plan on what to eat on marathon race day.

During long-distance or endurance events, the body uses up carbohydrates. Fat can also be an excellent source of energy—though not as efficient as carbs—and can be used up during running as well. I had personally hit the wall during my training days when I used up my glycogen carbohydrate stores. My performance decreased drastically, and I had to fuel up before I could continue the marathon.
On marathon day, I always make sure that I eat the last meal about three to four hours before the start. But before then, I take a cup or two of coffee. This is a little trick I learned some time ago. I have discovered that there is no other meal more important than this one. I have also found (painfully) how eating the wrong food—by throwing together some last-minute carb bonanza or eating at the wrong time—can mess up the race.

I have always been skeptical when it comes to eating meals on marathon days. It wasn’t until I came across a veteran but retired runner that I found out why I need to fuel up on the D-Day. Eating the right meal—which, by the way, should be foods rich in carbs—was to fill up the glycogen in my liver after the overnight fast the previous evening. The meal should also contain some amount of protein-rich foods which will help in minimizing the breakdown of the muscles while stabilizing blood sugar at the same time. A dollop of fat will ensure that my fat burning capacity is optimized, thus making me feel full.

Therefore, the type of foods I consume on marathon race day must be easy to digest. These are the foods I consume just before I start a marathon:

  • Low-fiber or oatmeal cereals
  • Yogurt
  • Bananas
  • Juice
  • White bread and honey
  • Eggs

At times, I drink water when I feel thirsty, and on hot days, I add salt to my meals.

Although the amount of fluid you drink during a marathon varies by individual, I ensure that I drink several gallons. I also drink sports drinks to ensure that I don’t become too dehydrated which may lead to hyponatremia. I have also found that taking a few carbs during the race gives a boost to my endurance level, so I take sports drinks or energy gels at almost every aid station.

As you’ve read, you need to be very careful on what you eat before a marathon, the above foods listed are based on my experience and they actually helped me function quite effectively. So, if you’ve been wondering what foods are really right to eat before a marathon, I recommend you pick from the list above.