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Marathon Nutrition

You’ve been training like a champion for the past few months and you’ve begun tapering your programme for the big day. The race is fast approaching and now is the time to really focus on your nutrition.

The correct nutrition protocol can be the difference between you smiling across the finish line and it being a day you’d rather forget. If you get your nutrition plan in place now, you’ll put your mind at ease and your body will be primed to perform at its best.

1) Pre-race nutrition

I am sure you have heard of the ever-popular ‘carb-loading’. You’ll hear of it as the approach you have to take leading up to an endurance event. In short, this refers to a strategy used by endurance athletes to load their muscles with glycogen so that they have plenty of energy to compete. Carb-loading is performed by consuming larger portions of carbohydrate like pasta, rice or potatoes. This is where you need to be sensible. Yes, you want carbohydrate heavier meals leading up to the race; however, you don’t want to go overboard. If you cram down piles of pasta, your digestive system will only end up fighting back. A dodgy stomach and frequent toilet stops will slightly damage your race time.

How big is your usual portion of carbohydrate with lunch or dinner? The three days leading up to the race, simply add in an extra half portion of carbs with every meal. Do you usually have one big spoonful of rice? Make it one and a half spoonfuls. You tend to have a small bowl of pasta at lunchtime? Make it a bowl and a half. Don’t over-complicate things. A small daily increase leading up to the race will be enough to load up your energy stores, without leaving you nursing a food baby.

One major piece of advice here: avoid spicy food the night before. For obvious reasons…

2) Race day breakfast

Plan your breakfast out the night before. The last thing you want is to discover you’ve run out of porridge at 6am in the morning. When it comes to race day breakfast, the most important thing to remember is: never try something new! Leading up to the race, have a few different breakfast options and really think about how these meals make you feel. We are all unique and we will all react to foods differently. Does toast and jam leave you feeling sluggish? Does porridge with some Greek yoghurt leave you feeling alert and full of energy? Find your optimal pre-race meal and you’ll be off to the perfect start.

Aim to eat breakfast approximately 2-3 hours before the race. This will give your stomach plenty of time to settle so all that energy can be put to good use.

3) Snack bars and energy gels

Take along your own bars and energy gels that you have practiced with during training sessions. Don’t rely on products being handed out on the day unless you are used to training with the same brand. You could contact the marathon host and ask what supplements are being provided on the day, but to be safe, take your own to make sure you’re covered. My recommendation: after you reach an hour into the race, consume an energy gel every 30 minutes. This should give you a steady stream of energy throughout.

4) Hydration

It may not be glamorous, but the best way to tell if you’re drinking enough water is to simply look at your urine. If your urine is running dark and is low in volume, it is a clear sign that you are dehydrated. Even the slightest level of dehydration is going to negatively impact your performance on the day. Your urine shouldn’t be running completely clear and should be straw-like in colour.

On the morning of the race, drink a big glass of water upon waking and then keep sipping water until about 30 minutes before the start.

Disclaimer: Avoid taking in a large amount of water in a short period of time, as this can be extremely dangerous to your health. When you finish the race, take your time with rehydrating.

5) Post-race nutrition

I understand that when you cross that finish line, you’ll be in celebration mode. There is nothing wrong with wanting to head out for pizza and a few beers. In fact, pizza can help with refilling those depleted energy sources. However, ensure that you consume some form of protein once the race has finished. Purchase yourself a protein supplement and have it ready to drink at the finish line. Protein is used for growth and repair and will help with limiting the inevitable muscle soreness.

Also, don't forget that AVA Berries will be helping runners (and spectators) refuel with plump and juicy Scottish grown AVA™ strawberries, so look out for the AVA Berries team at the finish line.


This post is in association with AVA berries. Developed from plant to punnet by an expert team of fruit growing and breeding experts, AVA™ strawberries only receive the AVA™ stamp of approval if they meet the highest standards in appearance, taste, juiciness, and yield. The first Scottish grown AVA™ strawberries of the summer season, AVA™ Star, AVA™ Blush, and AVA™ Rosa will begin hitting supermarket shelves towards the end of this month.


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