What should you eat when training for a marathon? What should you eat right before the competition? What do you eat and/or drink during the marathon itself? What do you eat afterwards?
In the end, every runner needs to decide for himself or herself, what the right nutrition is, when to eat and whether to use gels or not. Nonetheless, we’d like to give you some tips to help you make informed decisions - we’ve asked Steffi, from our Keller Sports x Nike Marathon Team for some suggestions. This year, she’ll be taking part in her ninth marathon, in Berlin. She’s got a lot of experience in what to eat before, during and after a marathon. Here are some tips for all runners out there:
What do you eat during marathon training?
To be honest, I eat the same as usual. The day before a marathon I try to eat as many carbohydrates as possible, especially pasta. I also try to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Do you have any eating rituals?
The evening before a marathon, I like to eat at Spaghetti Napoli - you can find them everywhere. I always have an alcohol-free wheat beer with my meal. I actually do this every time, so you could call it a ritual of sorts.
Pasta party - yes or no? Why?
Yes, definitely yes to pasta party. I usually throw mine two to three days before the competition. The main reason I do it is to see my friends (the ones running with me and the ones cheering us on) before the race. That way, we can all look forward to the run together. Sometimes, during a pasta party, I like to break the mould and have a pizza instead. The important thing is to get lots of carbs.
But the evening before the marathon is ‘me time’. I don’t meet up with anybody, I spend the day in peace and I go to Spaghetti Napoli.
When’s the last time you eat before the race? What do you eat?
On the morning of the competition, I bake myself three pretzels. I eat one of them slowly with a cup of coffee. The second I eat while I’m getting ready, and the third is for on the way to the marathon with an IsoGel. If I don’t feel like eating pretzels, I’ll have toast with Nutella instead.
I don’t eat anything for around one hour before the run. If just before the competition I feel like I need to eat something, I’ll have a banana - that never hurts.
What do you eat during the marathon or during training runs?
I don’t eat anything during the runs themselves, well, nothing solid anyway. I’ll only have gels. During the marathon, I’ll stop and drink water and an iso drink at the aid stations, or maybe a coke if there are any.
Bananas and pieces of fruit are not for me. I find it too tiring to chew while I’m running. I would strongly advise against trying out new things during the marathon.
Luckily for me, I like most iso drinks. I try the iso drink at the first aid station to see if it tastes OK. If it doesn’t, I’ll have an instant tea drink instead - the important thing is that it has sugar in it.
Do you take gels during the race? If so, when?
Yeah, I take gels during the marathon itself. I always bring four gels with me - three with caffeine and one without.
I take the first gel after the 12th kilometre, the second gel after the 22 k mark and the third at kilometre 32. The fourth is my backup gel, in case I don’t keep up with my usual plan. It’s more a psychological thing, really. It helps to know that I have it with me but I don’t always take it. If I do, it’s after around 36 or 37 k.
What do you eat after the run?
After a marathon, you always feel like you could eat a horse. Straight after the run, I eat anything there is on-site - melon, a banana or a chocolate croissant with a little salted pretzel, which they always have at the Berlin race.
A finish beer is a must, though! In the evening I’ll treat myself to anything I fancy, usually a cheeseburger and chips :-)
Every runner should find out for himself or herself, what he or she should eat during training and the competition itself. Whatever you think is best really is best, and you should experiment with things on days when you go for long runs in preparation for the marathon. Try out everything and see what suits you. The most important thing is to stock up on carbohydrates the evening before the race, be it pasta, rice, potatoes or anything else.
My tips for everyone would be not to try anything new (food-wise) on the day of the competition or the evening before. Apart from that, I’d recommend only taking the gels they give out during the competition if you’ve already tried them before. You don’t want to risk anything during the race, it’s best if everything goes smoothly.
What do you eat when you’re training for a competition and running a marathon? At what times do you eat during training? When do you stop for a drink during the race? Share your tips and ideas with us.