A lot of people make the same mistake in how they eat before a marathon — they wait until the night before the race to eat their big meal. If you’re only going to eat one big meal before the race, make it lunch instead. This gives your body more time to process the nutrients, lowers the chance of stomach troubles, and might help you sleep more soundly.
Better still, don’t wait until the day before the race to fuel up. Start topping off your body’s energy stores by eating a few extra calories in the days leading up to your marathon or half.
What You Should Eat the Week Before A Marathon or Half
So what should you be eating to maximize the energy you’ll have available on the big day? According to Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong’s coach, carbohydrates are most important, followed by protein, followed by fat, which is of little use before a race.
Carbohydrates – There’s some truth to the “pasta party” idea, just not the night before the big day. Starting a race with full stores of carbs has been shown to improve performance and endurance. So fill up on those grains, starchy vegetables, and fruits the week before the race.
Protein – Since you’ll be eating more food during this time, your protein levels should increase naturally as you increase portion sizes.
Fat - The nutrient you need least in the week prior to the race is fat. It just doesn’t do much to help you on race day, so it’s not worth filling up on fat calories. True, your goal in training is to get your body to burn fat stores before it has to burn carbohydrates, but you have plenty of fat for this in your body, regardless of how skinny you are. I sincerely hope you’re not still stuck in the low-fat diet craze, but this is one time when slightly reducing intake of even healthy fats is beneficial.
What you eat the day of the race is equally important as what you’re eating the week before. See my post about race day eating for more.
For more posts (and recipes) on natural sports nutrition, check out the Running Fuel page.