What to Eat when Training for a Marathon
Training for a marathon means putting in the miles, but what you fuel your body with during this time is just as important as ticking off those long runs. Aside from pasta, pasta and more pasta, here’s what to eat when training for a marathon. (Please note, this is general advice only – please consult a qualified health practitioner before changing your diet dramatically.)
If you’re a meat-eater, lean meat and fish are great sources of low-fat protein, which is great for recovery. Think salmon or turkey, with a portion of rice and veg to make a well-rounded meal. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, think quinoa, beans, lentils and tofu.
Yes, pasta! Carbohydrates are the most important fuel for energy, although carb-loading (consuming large amounts of carbohydrates in one or two sittings) should primarily be reserved for the night before long runs and race day. You can also fuel up on carbs by eating bread, rice, cereals and potatoes – and to a lesser degree, fruits, vegetables, beans, pulses, yoghurt and milk.
The most underestimated breakfast food of all time. This slow-releasing energy-packed oaty goodness is ideal for giving your body exactly what it needs when taking on those extra miles.
Packed with potassium, bananas aid recovery and keep cramp at bay. Whether you eat them dried, dipped in yoghurt or simply on their own, bananas are a great boost to a marathon diet. Other fresh and dried fruits also make ideal pre-run snacks.
Packed full of protein, peanut butter is a great training snack all on its own. For an extra boost, spread it on wholemeal toast along with a banana (see above). For a sweet hit, try it with dates.
Avocados should be on every runner’s shopping list, but particularly if training for a marathon. Full of ‘good’ fats, avocados fill you up and provide a good source of energy for endurance events. They’re also packed full of electrolytes, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium, which are crucial for muscle functioning and balance. These electrolytes are often depleted during intense exercise, such as training for a marathon.
While not a food, we simply can’t leave water off the list. It’s the body’s most important nutrient and the medium in which most of its processes occur, so is essential when pushing your body to the max. As well as keeping hydrated throughout the day, aim to drink a pint of water an hour before you run, plus half a pint for every 30 minutes of running. In addition, if you're exercising for longer than 1.5 hours, you might find it useful to drink some diluted fruit juice, squash or a sports drink to help give you energy, particularly if you can’t face a high-energy snack beforehand.
For runs and marathons across the country that you can get involved in this year, check out our Runs and Marathons page.