What to Eat Before, During, and After Your Marathon

With the big Houston Chevron Marathon this weekend , I'm thinking so much about my runner friends that will be racing. Unfortunately, due to my tendonitis delay in the fall I knew I wouldn't be able to get the mileage I wanted to be able to run this weekend, so I opted out. BUT still thinking about you guys and wishing all the runners BEST OF LUCK.  I'll definitely be out there cheering along the course!

One way I feel that I can also still  help you all out is by giving a few nutrition tips and tricks I've used in my marathons. Being a dietitian has its perks, and understanding some race day fueling has definitely helped me out. Here are the goods: 



Pre-Race Day: Practice drinking water during your runs. this is something I recommend that way you know what you are doing while drinking water and running at the same time. On race day you can drink fluids from the hydration stations that is along the course or also practicing running with a belt and water bottles. 

The week leading up to the race drink plenty of fluids, especially since you are tapering. Sometimes we may not feel as thirsty, but your body is going to need all the fluid. One thing I don't recommend is drinking sugary drinks or sports drinks because of all the extra sugar that can make you pack on unnecessary pounds you didn't have when your mileage was much higher. 


Race Day: Drink a normal amount of fluid as any other day. You don't want to be sloshing around on your run, or having to go minutes before the race starts.

When to start drinking is recommended at 30 mins into a run (so about the 3-4  mile mark) for half and full marathoners. I recommend drinking sports drink or water or both every 5k to keep you hydrated and retaining your fluid. If you see that you are starting 'salt out' and see white specks on your skin you definitely need to drink a sports drink and water. 

Eating during your marathon can also be tricky. One thing I high recommend is having a running belt and practice storing your gels, goos, and bars in. A few brands that are popular are: Honeystinger gels and waffle cookies, Rungums, Cliff Bar gels, Power Bar Gels, kind bars, larabars, Gatorade series gels, gummy bears, chocolate pretzels, etc. Personally, I am not too fond of stuff with chocolate only because I find that they melt and don't have patience with mess during my already messy race hahaha. But it's totally up to what works for you! 


Post Race: If you checked your race weight before running and can check when you finished it's good to see how much fluids you have lost. This is a good indicator of how much you need to hydrate. Drink sports drinks about 16 oz to help replenish carbohdyate/sugars, electrolytes, and water you used during your run. Also drinking a protein shake like Core Power, Muscle Milk, chocolate milk, or other protein shakes that are offered are good to drink as well, especially if you can't eat right away. PRO TIP: keep a non refrigerated sports protein drink in your check in bag to have quick access to quick recovery nutrition. You don't want to get caught having to wait 2-3 hours after a race to eat a good meal and nothing to help you recover properly.



Pre-Race Day: Before you go and guzzle down bowls of pasta the day before a race, it is recommend to avoid carb loading the day before, especially since it can take while to digest, and end up making you retain 1 ml of water for every 1 gram of carbohydrate you eat--which means carrying water weight you weren't used to while training can leave you feeling extra sluggish because your body is still trying to break down foods from the night before.

It is recommended to carb load at the beginning of the week of your race. have normally balanced meals the closer you get  or you end up feeling sluggish the day of. Make sure your meals have proteins, vegetables, and a normal sized carbohydrate portion.


Race Day:  Wake up in time to eat something or at least prepare before you head out to the course. You wan tto have something that is easy and quick to break down and has protein. Some ideas would be: PB sandwich or PB toast, eggo with an egg, Oatmeal with banana and PB, bagel with cream cheese. The ideas is to not have something that may cause to feel like you gotta go to the bathroom during your race. It is also best to avoid things with a lot of vegetables, or milk on race day. 

While out on the run, you can also start to snack on something around 5-6 miles  or at an hour. During your run make sure have practiced which kind of snacks work best for you. This is important so you don't experience (ahem!) bathroom issues! Different snacks can be: pieces of chopped fruit,chocolate covered pretzels, kind bars, Larabars, Ciff Bar gels , Honey Stinger gels or cookies, RunGum, PowerBar shots, gummy bars, etc. Make sure to have a belt with you that you can store your snacks in or have people who will really have your back and be watching out for you with the necessary snacks. 

Everybody is different so make sure to practice which foods to have! Some foods may work super well for others and not for you. It is also good practice opening and eating foods during long runs so you can figure out which ones are easiest for you to consume and less of a hassle opening. Little things like this make all the difference!


Post Race: You definitely want to have something with protein within an hour of crossing the finish line. The sooner the better. This can really help your body replenish and recover itself right away. Protein helps to rebuild muscle tissues that your body may have tapped into for energy and fight off your soreness.

If you are someone that just can't stomach solid food right away consider trying: ice cream, eggs, peanut butter sandwich, banana or other fruits, and plenty of water or electrolyte sports drinks (Powerade or Gatorade). Some races also have a hot meal already waiting for participants so you can eat,definitely go and get it. Pro tip: put your post race snacks/meals in your check in bag so you have access to them right away. 

Also really try to go get a full meal as soon as possible, even if the post race party with beer is so enticing, your body will totally love you for it and have you feeling so much better the next day . 



Some of my faves are shown above in this picture. Revere protein powder supplement that can easily be mixed with water and so covenient for post race nutrition.  RX bar and the Perfect Bar to keep me fueled with sustained energy during the race. Bananas, oranges, and almonds cause they are quick and easy to eat before and after the marathon. My not pictured favorites: cliff bar gels in coffee flavor, Honey Stinger gels, and Powerbar gels. 


What are some things you guys would like to know about eating the week leading up or on race day? Let me know! I'd love to answer them for you!


Let's Shine,