Nutrition for the Marathon… Taper and pre race nutrition!

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Well the time has begun for all those training for fall marathons (especially Chicago Marathon on October 8th) to be beginning their taper. Here are some nutrition tips for your taper and marathon!


Taper Nutrition:
– Pack in those antioxidants! Often times once your training load decreases, your immune system takes a hit meaning you are more susceptible to getting sick. Now is the time to really try and pack in those healthy foods such as 100% whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans. Aim for 5-7 servings a day and try to eat a wide variety of colors in your produce. (Helps ensure you are receiving different types of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants).

Example: Breakfast: WW toast with peanut butter, cup sliced strawberries, glass OJ
Lunch: Grilled chicken wrap with spinach, tomato, onion, avocado with serving of pretzels and an apple
Snack: 6 oz greek yogurt with 3/4 cup blueberries
Dinner: 6 oz Salmon with broccoli, sweet potato, side salad

Week before:

Eat a carbohydrate rich diet to help maximize those glycogen stores for the big race day! If you are a salty sweater and if temps seem to be looking high for the marathon, add some salty foods in your diet as well such as pretzels, nuts, etc.

Balance your meals with some rich carbohydrates (breads, pasta, rice, potatoes etc), lean protein (grilled or baked meats or veggie proteins) and healthy fats (avocado, egg, oil etc).

The night before

-Try not to eat too late in the evening ( aim for dinner between 4-6 pm and a snack before you go to bed.)

-No need to stuff yourself but do eat a carb rich meal.
– Really watch the alcohol and avoid anything high fat for dinner this night. (You don’t want that heavy burger or pizza sitting in your stomach for the race!).
-Don’t forget to set a few alarms!
– Lay out all your clothes and food for the next day.
– Drink plenty of water the few days before the race. You want to be well hydrated!

Morning of
Wake up in time so you are not rushing and so you have time to eat.
Best rule for race morning fuel: don’t try anything new on race day! Hopefully you have been practicing your pre-long run meal throughout the last 16 weeks so you know what works and what doesn’t.

Avoid foods with too much fiber and fat for race day. (No one needs to be racing to the bathroom!). Drink plenty of fluids. You may need to bring a small bar with and water to the race if you have to leave early to drive and park.

During race:
You need 30-60 grams of carb per hour. I typically tell runners to drink some Gatorade and water at most water stops and once an hour after the first hour to take a GU or similar product that is about 30 grams of carb.

(So I drink 1/2- 1 cup of Gatorade most mile stops, I add water if its hot out, and I take my GU with water only at mile 6-7, 12-13 and 18-20.)
Everyone has their own plan that works.
Major mistakes to avoid: taking in too much sugar at one time (leads to GI distress) so if you are eating or consuming any sugary products, drink water at that mile stop.
Don’t skip water stops. Dehydration comes on quick so even if you swish some water or Gartorade in your mouth, its better than nothing!

Good luck! Have questions? Contact me at!

Kelly Devine Rickert, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN
President, Devine Nutrition, Inc.
Director, Run to the Pub
Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Media Spokesperson
Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics
Registered Dietitian

P: (708)612-0876
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