How to eat leading up to the big day and what to do for post race recovery

by Caroline Roberts, MSc. Human Nutrition

The Basics…

Figuring out what to eat can be as difficult as the run itself. Eat too much and you run the risk of stomach cramps or bloats or ending up searching for the nearest bathroom mid-race. Too little however, and you can say goodbye to any hope of a PB and feel yourself burning out before the race really gets going!

RULE 1: Don’t try anything new, stick with what you know and the foods you have been eating throughout your training. New foods may disagree with you and you lose the consistency you have been keeping throughout your training.

RULE 2: Focus on eating adequate amounts of carbohydrate which allows you to top off your glucose stores and remain filled for the race duration.

RULE 3: Keep portions reasonable – a huge bowl of pasta is tough on the digestive system so stick to regular serving sizes.

RULE 4: Choose meals rich in complex carbohydrates, with protein and fat to help best absorb the nutrients and support you through your run

2-3 days prior to race day

TIP: Increase carbohydrates not calories! Your body can store enough carbohydrate to keep you going for approximately 90 minutes, after which it has to resort to burning fat reserves for energy and this may slow you down. Increase your carbohydrate intake by around 10% over the three to four days leading up to the race. This, combined with the reduction in your training, will help you start out with the maximum amount of glycogen in your body, and you’ll be on the start-line feeling so ready to race!


30-50g oats topped with half a banana and a tsp of nut butter


2 eggs with rye or sourdough toast OR frozen banana, cacao, peanut butter and almond milk smoothie with a scoop of protein powder and tbsp flax or chia seeds.


Chicken breast with roasted vegetables and quinoa.


Bean-and-lean-meat chilli: If your digestive system can handle it, make some bean-based chilli for your pre-marathon dinner. Cording says they’re rich in protein, complex carbs, and iron, which will help get oxygen through your blood (and to your muscles!). Be careful the lentils are fully cooked as if you are not used to large amounts of pulses, they can lead to bloating.

24hrs before the race


50g oats topped with half a banana and a tsp of nut butter


2 eggs with rye or sourdough toast


Green salad with chicken, tomatoes, feta cheese/ olives, nuts, and olive oil: The greens are packed with vitamins and minerals to up your stamina. Combined with a salad rich in protein, nuts, and healthy fats will give you the mix of macronutrients you need to feel strong, even after several hours of activity. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that fights inflammation and helps the body absorb iron (which you need to help carry oxygen in the blood during a race).


Salmon with a side of rice / quinoa or sweet potatoes: While any meat will give you plenty of protein to support muscle repairing and rebuilding post-race, salmon also offers omega-3 fatty acids, which can help counteract inflammation.

Race day


Oatmeal topped with nut butter: Almonds, peanuts, cashews—they all contain satisfying amounts of fat and protein that your body digests slowly, therefore keeping you fuller (and energized) for longer.


Bananas and berries on top of peanut butter toast: You can get the same energising boost from peanut butter, but on top of whole-wheat toast. The vitamins and minerals in fruits will also help fix cell damage from your 13.1 miles of running.


Relish this well-deserved recovery! Eat and drink whatever is in the goody bag; you may not feel like it but it will kick-start the recovery process. You may be crying out for salty foods if you have sweated a lot; this is when it’s actually fine to eat chips or crisps to replenish lost body salts! Treat yourself to a proper meal as soon as you can stomach it after the race. You’ll need plenty of high-GI carbohydrates and protein to aid muscle recovery, but, quite frankly, listen to your body and eat what you fancy here!