As you go into the final stretch to taper training and gear up for race day, how do you prepare nutritionally?  Here are 4 tips to effectively optimize your marathon game plan.


If you’re running a marathon, congratulations, the hardest part is over!  You’ve rallied through early morning wake up calls and logged miles on miles in preparation for the big day.  Now that the physical training is behind you, it’s time to taper and refocus your attention to recovery, replenishment, and nourishment! Follow this nutrition guide to properly fuel your body with nutrients that have the power to maximize your energy, speed, and stamina on race day.

The main objective of during your taper week is to feed your body the nutrition it needs to repair and strengthen muscles, as well as maximize your glycogen storage.  Glycogen is simply a reserve of glucose (fuel) stored in muscles and the liver (think of it as your gas tank for the race).

Here are 4 areas to focus on when you eat:

1. What to eat

Focus on nutrient-rich whole foods: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and high-quality animal proteins.  Avoid processed foods, fast foods, refined sugars and oils, as well as alcohol and excessive caffeine.  If dairy is problematic, avoid that as well.

2. How much

While many runners panic and feel the need to eat excessively during pre-marathon week, you can actually stick to your usual caloric intake.  As you taper your training, you will be expending less calories than usual. The unused calories normally expended during training will instead be used to fuel your muscles and build up glycogen stores.  While calorically your diet should remain about the same, pay closer attention to the composition of your meals.  As you taper, progressively increase the percentage of calories coming from carbohydrates (about 70%) while decreasing protein and fat.

3. Diet rehearsal

Start to acclimate your body to the foods and beverages you plan to eat for the race. If you plan on using a sports drink, supplement, or anything “new”, ideally you would have done a pilot run already.  If not, test it out ASAP in order to determine your tolerability.  Work out the kinks now so that you can be confident with your nutrition plan on race day.

4. Welcome modest weight gain

As your meals become more carbohydrate-centric, you may experience mild weight gain (1-3lbs).  This is because for every gram of stored glycogen, the body stores 3g of water.  No need to panic – this modest weight gain is temporary and desirable – it means you did a good job fueling your muscles and building a solid reserve of glycogen.

Adapted from the original article.

Lindsey Kane, MS, RD, LDN is a San Francisco-based Registered Dietitian helping others live a stress-free, balanced, and thriving life. By getting to know her clients inside and out, Lindsey identifies the opportunities within their everyday lifestyle to integrate subtle changes that create lasting, impactful results. Learn more at Bite For Change!


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