Marathon Training Plan: Nutrition Tips for Race Day

Proper nutrition is a critical component of any successful race day. After months of rigorous training, ensuring you have the right fuel can make a significant difference in your performance. In this guide, we’ll dive into the essential nutritional strategies to help you perform at your best, especially if you’re following a marathon training plan or working with a virtual running coach.

Carbohydrate Management Before Race Day

The Role of Carbs in Your Training Program

Carbohydrates are your body’s primary fuel source during high-intensity activities like running a marathon. While the traditional practice of “carb loading” has changed, it remains crucial to ensure your glycogen stores are topped up. Similar to fueling during heavy training,  the days leading up to a race incorporate carbohydrates into every meal and consider adding an extra serving occasionally. For instance, enjoy a bagel or some toast before bed to ensure your energy reserves are fully replenished.

Meal Timing and Composition

The night before the race, consider a simple dinner with easily digestible carbs like rice or pasta without heavy sauces. Avoid high-fiber vegetables or fatty foods, as these can cause gastrointestinal (GI) issues on the day of your event.

Hydration and Electrolytes

Importance of Staying Hydrated

Hydration is not just about drinking water; it’s about maintaining the balance of electrolytes in your body. Start hydrating more intensely several days before the event, especially if travel is involved. Adding an electrolyte tablet like Nuun to your water can help your body maintain fluid balance and prevent dehydration.

Race Day Nutrition

Eating Right on the Big Day

If your event is in the morning, a light yet sufficient breakfast about 1:30 to 3:00 hours before the race—such as oatmeal or toast—can provide the needed energy without weighing you down. For later events, a hearty breakfast and light lunch or snacks will keep your energy levels optimized. Always practice this meal timing during your training to avoid surprises on race day.

The Boost of Caffeine

For many, a morning cup of coffee is non-negotiable. Caffeine is proven to enhance endurance performance by increasing alertness, reducing perception of pain, and delaying fatigue. However, it’s crucial to test how your body responds to caffeine during training to avoid any race day digestive discomfort.

Mid-Race Fueling

No matter the distance, maintaining energy levels during the race is essential. For any run over 90 minutes, plan to consume a carb-based gel, chews, or similar products every 30-45 minutes, aiming to consume 30-60g of carbs/hour. Training with these products can improve your digestive system’s ability to absorb sugar efficiently which is crucial for maintaining energy throughout the race. Mid-Race fueling is arguably just as important as the physical run training you’ve completed: it’s essential for a strong performance.

Post-Race Recovery

Soon after the race, it’s important to refuel. Protein and carbs are vital to repair muscles and replenish energy stores. Pack a recovery snack like a protein shake or a banana with peanut butter, to consume when you finish. Trust us – your recovering body will thank you! 

Conclusion

Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or a newcomer, integrating these nutrition and hydration strategies into your training and race day routine can significantly enhance your performance. Remember, a successful race begins and ends with how well you fuel your body. Eat smart, hydrate well, and run your best race yet!

two women after runnning

Ready to elevate your running performance with expert guidance? Visit Grit Coaching today and discover how our tailored marathon training plans and one-on-one coaching can help you achieve your running goals. Whether you’re gearing up for your first marathon or aiming to set a new personal record, our experienced coaches are here to support you every step of the way. Don’t wait—start your journey to becoming a stronger, faster, and more resilient runner now!

FAYE STENNING

Coach Faye in 'GRIT' athletic attire confidently poses with crossed arms.

Faye’s journey in athletics is marked by dedication and impressive achievements. Throughout her high school and university years, she was deeply engaged in running, competing for the University of Calgary’s track and cross-country teams. Her standout moments include earning the “All Canadian” cross-country status and participating in the 2008 Olympic trials for the 5000m. After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, Faye embarked on a career as a personal trainer, where her passion for fitness and a healthy lifestyle became a source of inspiration for her diverse range of clients.

Transitioning from competitive running, Faye soon discovered her next athletic passion: obstacle course racing (OCR). Her strong foundation in running and strength training quickly propelled her to success in the OCR world. Faye’s talents were recognized in 2016 when she joined the Spartan Pro Team, and her athletic ability was furthered with a bronze medal at the Spartan World Championships.

Continuing to compete among the elite, Faye has consistently demonstrated her skill and tenacity in OCR. She has secured two 4th place finishes at both the Spartan North Americans and the Spartan World Championship. Her record of Spartan podium finishes over the past decade showcases her enduring excellence in the sport.

Beyond the thrill of competition, it’s the OCR community that deeply resonates with Faye. The opportunity to travel, share her passion for fitness and adventure, and connect with an array of positive, inspiring individuals fuels her year after year. Faye embodies the essence of the “work hard, play hard” ethos, living it to the fullest in both her professional and personal life.

Jess O'Connell

Coach Jess in 'GRIT' athletic attire confidently poses with crossed arms.

Though Jess spent much of her free time growing up competing in Irish dancing, once she hit the track, she never looked back! As a specialist in the 5000m, she boasts a personal best time of an impressive 15:06.66. Her accomplishments include competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 5000m and formerly holding the Canadian national records for the indoor 3000m and 2 mile races. Jess’s career is further highlighted by being a 15-time Canadian national team member across track and field, cross country, and road running, a four-time National Champion, a Pan Am Games silver medalist, an NCAA Division I All-American, and achieving a personal bests of 32:22 in the 10km (road race) and 4:30 in the mile.

Jess has always been “nerdy” about her training, which shows through in her impressive academic background. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University and a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Calgary. As a CSEP-CEP (Clinical Exercise Physiologist) with a High-Performance specialization, Jess holds the highest level of certification available in Canada. Jess also holds NCCP Performance Coach certification for endurance events. She applies her vast athletic experience and educational background to her role in Grit Coaching, and also serves as the distance track and cross country coach at the University of Calgary. 

Jess’s commitment to sport extends beyond her personal achievements, as she actively works to inspire and uplift the next generation of athletes. She has passionately volunteered for Fast and Female, an organization dedicated to empowering girls and young women to remain active and engaged in sports, and has served as the athlete representative on the board of Athletics Alberta, the provincial governing body for track and field. Jess believes that balance, health, and FUN are essential for longevity in sport, and she loves sharing her love of running with others.