Running a marathon is a great time to improve your overall nutrition to support your training and race performance. By applying some performance nutrition principles to your daily meals, you can fuel your body correctly in order to help you get fitter, and perhaps, also reduce your body fat along the way.
Eating properly around your training can be daunting, so we’ve included some tips and meal plans below for guidance. Like training, good nutrition is also about building confidence – both in preparing different meals each week and seeing how food can affect your training.
Our recipes provide a ‘food-first’ approach to meet your daily nutrient targets. Sports nutrition products (such as drinks or gels) can help support your preparations towards the race itself.
Many of these recipes are nutrient-dense (meaning they provide a range of nutrients, including important vitamins and minerals) to keep the body healthy as your training increases.
There are several key elements of performance nutrition that are important to consider to maximise your performance. The main focus with endurance training is to match your daily fuel intake to the volume of training – this is known as 'periodised' nutrition.
This means that what you eat should be different depending on your training demands for that particular day – there will be some trial and error to learn what feels right for you.
Getting your fuelling right on different days means that you can have sufficient energy during training, whilst also reducing body fat (if that is your goal) over the course of your training programme.
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Plan 1: What should I eat on rest and light intensity training days?
Easier days require less carbohydrates to fuel your training. Our rest & easy training day meal options can help you prioritise protein, fats, and mixed vegetables over carbs on easier days, plus how to incorporate 'fasted training' into your routine.
Find out what to eat on rest & easy training days.
Plan 2: What should I eat on normal (moderate intensity) training days?
Carbohydrate is a main fuel for endurance training, so as training volume increases you need more to keep your stores topped up. Our recipe suggestions for normal (moderate intensity) training will help you to get all the nutrition you need on these days.
Plan 3: What should I eat on heavy (high intensity) training days?
On heavy training days you'll need to pay close attention to hydration levels and up your carbohydrate intake. Make sure you're eating the right kind of carbs with our high-intensity training days recipe suggestions.
How to use the nutrition plans
To give you an example, we've included a beginner's week training plan from The TCS London Marathon, from week 11 of your training. We’ve marked which diet plan you should be following that day in relation to the volume of training you’re undertaking.
Example training plan
10 min easy run, 5 x (5 min interval run, 2.5 min easy run), 10 min easy run
40 min easy run
Core & stretching
Run a half marathon
1 or 2
2 or 3
More training & nutrition tips for runners
- Now you've perfected your training nutrition, make sure you eat right in race week with our marathon meal plans.
- Get to grips with eating before, during and after running with our guides.
- Our marathon nutrition hub will teach you how to hydrate properly, carb-load and even how Mo Farah fuels for training.
These meal plans were last updated on 20 February 2020 by James Collins.
James Collins is recognised as a leading Performance Nutritionist through his work with Olympic and professional sport. Over the last decade he has worked with Arsenal FC, the England and France national football teams and Team GB. He has a private practice in Harley Street where he sees business executives, performing artists and clients from all walks of life. He is the author of the new book The Energy Plan, which focuses on the key principles of fuelling for fitness.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.
Are you training for a race this year? What have you found most challenging and do you have any top tips to share with other runners? We'd love to hear from you below...