As we inch ever closer to the London Marathon, it’s time to make sure you’re fully prepared for the big day, which means making sure you’re eating right.
Race week is all about being sensible. So, as well as being confident enough to ease off your training and not going crazy with any last-minute fitness tests, you should also think about prepping your ideal diet. By now, you’ll understand just how important getting the right fuel can be, especially for big events, so be wary of opting for last-minute superfoods with the hope that they’ll give you a boost on the big day.
Quality protein is key for building strength, especially if you’re combining your strength work with aerobic exercise, but you need to eat according to the training you’re doing - don’t just repeat the same meals each day! On intense training days, including the big day itself, more carbohydrates are needed to prep and refuel. On the other hand, rest days should focus more on protein and healthy fats
Foods to think about
If you’re training hard, rice is a much easier carbohydrate source for your body to handle than pasta or bread. Also, get your hands on some sticky rice to make yourself some rice cakes to take out with you on long runs.
Eggs are fantastic little packages of protein, vitamins and minerals. If you’re on a rest day or not training until the evening, an omelette or scrambled eggs are the perfect way to start your day.
Beans and pulses
High in fibre, iron and B vitamins, eating a range of legumes is one of the best ways to ensure that vegetarians and vegans get their full complement of amino acids. Meat eaters should stock up too and make sure they’re included in meals - mixed-bean chilli is a brilliant slow-cooked option!
The go-to choice for lean, quality protein. It’s also high in beta-alanine, which can aid high-intensity training. It’s effortless to add turkey breast to most meals in your diet, or you can even grill turkey steaks or use turkey mince to make a hearty chilli or some tasty burgers. Veggies and vegans should stock up with Quorn as a protein-packed meat-free alternative.
Make sure you’re choosing 70% cocoa content or higher - milk chocolate is not allowed! Just a couple of squares of dark chocolate feels like a treat and delivers a decent dose of beneficial flavonols. These lower LDL cholesterol, stabilise blood-sugar levels and help to improve blood flow.
Tinned sardines in tomato sauce
These little gems are packed with omega-3 oils and quality protein, plus the tomato sauce is loaded with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Mash onto some wholemeal toast for a fast, easy and effective recovery meal.
Baked, roasted or boiled in stews, sweet potatoes are a really versatile carbohydrate source. High in fibre, vitamins A, C and B6, and antioxidants. They have a lower glycemic index than regular potatoes too, which means the energy release is more sustained.
Countdown to success
The week before the marathon
Begin ‘grazing’ on Thursday, eating smaller meals and snacking in between.
The day before the marathon
Continue the grazing approach, but eat slightly bigger meals and eat every 4 hours. Include more carbohydrates in your meals and also drink little and often, including one drink made with electrolytes.
The evening before the marathon
Have your last big meal at about 7pm.
Breakfast on race day
Aim to eat breakfast at least 2hr before the start of a long race; something like porridge. Move on to toast or a teacake, topped with honey and banana about an hour before the start.
During the race
It’s important to eat within the first hour of racing. This is hard to do as the pace is fast and you are unlikely to be hungry, however, something like apricots or a muesli bar is essential to help you cross that finish line.
If you’re all prepared for the London Marathon but your training gear has seen better days, check out our guide to the perfect race day kit.
For more helpful tips and advice, head over to our blog for more useful information on fitness and nutrition.