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Runners Education: Planning Your Meals During the Final Week of Marathon Training

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This is another installation in a series of runners education articles written by UW Health Sports Medicine staff.

 

You have come to the final week of training for your marathon, and this week continues your preparation phase for race day. Let's turn the focus to your nutritional needs throughout this week.

 

A Runner's Change in Diet

 

The decline of your intensity and length of training runs provides the perfect opportunity to stock up on muscle fuel (glycogen) for race day. Most runners do not need to radically alter their nutrition plan during this week, but instead turn the focus to frequently eating high-quality carbohydrates to adequately prepare their muscles by topping off glycogen stores.

 

In a new sports nutrition manual written by several leading sports nutritionists, authors review the carbohydrate guidelines based on the number of hours spent in exercise as follows:

  • Less than 30 minutes of exercise per day - 1.5 to 2.5 grams per pound of body weight
  • One hour per day - 2.5 to 3.5 grams per pound of body weight
  • One to three hours per day - 3 to 5 grams per pound of body weight
  • More than four hours per day - 4 to 6 grams per pound of body weight

Eating During Your Taper

 

Eating the appropriate amount of carbohydrates for training or your taper means planning these foods into every meal and snack opportunity. Plan to refuel your body every three to four hours to prevent uncomfortable dips in blood sugar and overeating at the next meal or snack.

 

During your taper, your energy output and caloric intake decreases, but don't make the mistake of cutting out too much. You'll find yourself hungry or improperly fueled for race day. Keep up on your hydration and eat three meals and one to two snacks daily, but make each meal or snack slightly smaller.

 

Each time you sit down to eat, map out which foods and beverages supply your carbohydrates (fruit, whole grains, milk or milk alternatives, beans and legumes) and make these items the majority of your meal. Add in a source of protein (poultry, fish, string cheese, edamame) and healthy fat (avocado, nuts, peanut butter, or olive or canola oil) to best manage hunger and keep your energy levels high.

 

Suggestions for Marathoner Diet

 

Meal and Snack Ideas

Approximate Grams of Carbohydrate

Breakfast "cookie" topped with one tablespoon natural peanut butter, eight ounces of orange juice and eight ounces of low fat milk*

85

Fruit and yogurt smoothie** (one cup fruit, 1/3 cup juice, six ounces yogurt)

20

Two cups pasta salad with black beans and seasonal veggies, eight ounces low-fat milk

85

Hummus, peppers and cucumbers on a whole grain pita, eight ounces sparkling water

30

One cup roasted sweet potatoes and carrots, salmon or chicken kebabs and one cup white chili

70

Apple with two tablespoons peanut butter

35

½-cup dried fruit medley, string cheese and eight ounces 100 percent juice

65

 

*Milk alternatives (soy, almond, rice) can be substituted for low fat milk
**Greek yogurt can be substituted for a higher protein and calorie option

 

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