What to Eat the Week before Your Marathon

By Monica Bearden, RD, LD, CSSD

Director of Sports Nutrition, Methodist Human Performance Team

By now you know which foods work and don’t work for you…this is the time to stick with the foods, beverages, and supplements you know work well with your digestive system.  This is not the time to try anything new. Leave that for your training prior to your next marathon.

Using the foods and supplements you have been training with, here are some tips for your week of tapered training leading up to your race.

  1. It’s all about the carbs – carb loading along with tapered training will make sure your muscles have all the stored carbs (glycogen) needed to finish the race. Starting strong is important, but so is finishing. It’s the carbs that get you there.  The recommended amount of carbs is 10-12g/kg body weight.  While carb loading, you may gain some weight since stored carbs are stored with water.  It is a sign that you are increasing your muscle glycogen.

Example Carb Amount. 150 lb. athlete = 150lb/2.2kg = 68kg * 10g carbs = 680 g carbs/day

  1. How many carbs? – for the 150 lb. athlete, 680 g carbs a day the week you taper your training is ideal. You could distribute the carbs into approximately three 200 g carb (and 15-25 g protein) meals and two 30 g carb snacks. The meal below is low fiber and low acid for easy digestion. Remember to only eat the foods that you know work well with your digestive system.  If this is too much food, then try and double your typical carbohydrate portions, so if you typically eat ½ cup pasta, try and eat 1 cup.

Example 200 g Carb Meal. 10 starches and 3 fruits – 1 cup pasta, 1 large sweet potato, 2 rolls, 1 ½ pretzels, 1 medium banana, 1 medium apple and 3 ounces ground turkey (21 g protein).

  1. Know your hydration strategy – while training weigh yourself before and after and subtract amount of fluid consumed during training. The amount of weight lost is fluid weight. Rehydrate with 16-24 oz. of fluid per pound lost and keep your urine a light yellow color.

Example Hydration Recovery and Sweat Rate – 150 lb. athlete loses 2 pounds (32 oz.) and drinks 32 oz. Gatorade during 2 hour training . 1. He needs to drink 32-48 oz. fluid over the next 6 hours to regain lost weight. 2. His sweat rate = 32 oz. (2 lbs.) body weight + 32 oz. Gatorade = 64 oz./2 hrs. training = 32 oz./hr., so to stay hydrated he needs to drink about 8 oz. every 15 minutes of the race

Knowing your typical fluid loss per hour will help you take in the right amount of fluid during the race – under and over-hydrating can negatively impact performance.

  1. The night before the race – eat early and eat easy to digest carbs that work well with your digestive system. The example meal above could be a night-before-the-race meal. Also, make sure your urine color is a light yellow color.
  1. Day of the race – prior to the race, eat only foods and supplements that you know you can stomach prior to exercise, this is not the time to be adventurous. Easy to digest, fast-acting carbs that you trained with are the best – think white and refined. Also, make sure to take in 30-60 g of carbs each hour of the race. This can be a combination of solid and liquid sources of carbs.

For a customized and detailed menu plan, come and see me, Monica Bearden, RD, LD, CSSD at Methodist Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, 281-737-0466.