Marathon Nutrition Do’s and Don’ts

Things ‘to do’ in preparation for the marathon 

There is a saying in elite sport that I have often heard in the lead up to big events which is ‘the quality of your preparation will dictate the level of your performance’. Your preparation should put you in the best possible position to perform to your potential while feeling relaxed.  


Here are some things that you can do in preparation for the marathon or an endurance event you have coming up

  • Create a list of meals and foods you know work well as part of your nutrition plan
  • Plan your week in advance and know the days that require the most preparation and focused meal timing 
  • Break down your preparation into different phases, and look at a number of meals that you know work well and create a timeline of the days before the race.
  • Focus on carbohydrate rich foods which provide a key source of energy. Despite what you might have heard or read about limiting carbohydrate intake, appropriate intakes of carbohydrate is vital to the intensity at which you can perform and will impact how quickly you recover. 

  • Give yourself time to eat and avoid feeling rushed or that you need to force yourself to eat.
  • In the lead into the race the aim is to consume enough to be fuelled without running the risk of getting stomach cramps or needing to go to the toilet, so the best piece of advice is to start the process 48 hours in advance and then you’re not forcing yourself to eat large amounts at the last minute.
  • Practice your fuelling strategy well in advance of the race to ensure you are comfortable with the type of carb sources you are using and the timing. “As well as water stations on the course, there are opportunities to get energy gels and sports drink on board, but the important thing here is to have practiced with these
  • If you find it difficult to consume food directly after your run, the best option here is to take on a liquid recovery drink. A recovery shake, smoothie or even flavoured milk is a great place to start as it is easier on the stomach and will help with that initial phase of recovery. We certainly have plenty of those in our recipe section.
  • Make your checklist well in advance of the race. Everything from running kit, shopping ingredients, hydration check at various time points, water bottles and whatever recovery food options you have chosen should be mapped out and organised to give you the best chance of optimum performance.



Things ‘to avoid’ in preparation for the marathon

  • Don’t leave your planning and organisation on all aspects of your nutrition preparation too late. You shouldn’t be wondering what shoes you are going to wear, what type of meals you are going to eat, sports drink or gel you are going to use. Have all of that planned out and practised in the weeks before the big race.
  • The best athletes have clarity on their strategies so don’t think you can keep all of this information in your head. Write it down, execute it and reflect on the elements you feel need to be tweaked.
  • Don’t try anything new the week of the event and certainly don’t try anything new the day of the race. Everything should be familiar from the bottle you use, the food you eat and the socks you run in.  
  • Focus on performance as your main goal. In the weeks leading up to the marathon your focus should be on meeting energy needs, recovery and avoiding illness and injury. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to lose significant weight or body fat which compromises your race preparation.
  • Don’t go long periods without eating, regular intense exercise can sometimes suppress your appetite leading to inadequate intake of key nutrients. Aim to have good structure on your meals, particularly around exercise for recovery.  
  • Don’t worry about what others are doing, focus on your plan, your strategies and the things you have practised. It will give you the edge on your competition if you feel comfortable with your own plan and you are not getting distracted by others. 



You’ve done the preparation, planning in the kitchen and in training, so you’ll go into the marathon knowing you’ve done it before and it works for you. That in itself is a great source of confidence as you aim to deliver your best possible performance. Focus on you, your plan and your strategy, the reward will be the feeling of accomplishment but also knowing that you did all you could to be at your best when you cross the finish line.


As part of the PRO Membership we have a 4 part series of articles on marathon preparation 

Marathon Series Part 1: Nutrition for the Novice Marathon Runner

Your Marathon Race Day Nutrition Guide

Marathon Series Part 3: The Key Elements for Marathon Recovery

Marathon Series Part 4: Gain a performance edge in the marathon final


If you would like more information or clarification on exactly what you should be doing in the lead up to and during the race why not contact us for a consultation or plan for your race. Book in for a consultation here daveynutrition Clinic or email us for more information – [email protected]


This article was written by Daniel Davey.