The best diet plan for marathon training

Complex carbohydrates and simple diet changes could be the secret to setting your personal best


With marathon season just around the corner, many people are starting to prepare to slog their way through 26.2 miles in races everywhere from London to Athens. Here are some diet tips from leading experts on the best ways to prepare:

Diet changes

Tim Lawson, director and founder of sports nutrition brand Secret Training, said that the science of distance running nutrition is not necessarily as complicated as you might imagine - just altering your diet to be more healthy can get you closer to being marathon-ready.

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“The general advice is no different than what is recommended for a regular healthy diet,” Lawson told Coach. “Less alcohol, lots of greens, oily fish and quality protein foods evenly spaced through the day, with sufficient fluids.”

Focus on carbohydrates - but only the right kind

As runners start training for longer and longer runs, their calorie intake needs to increase as well. A training diet should be at least 55% carbohydrate during daily training and 55% to 65% before an endurance event or long training run, according to registered dietitian Janice H. Dada in Today's Dietitian.

Try to include complex carbohydrates in your diet plan, such as wholegrain bread and pasta, brown rice and legumes. Avoid simple carbs like honey, sugar and jam.

Fuelling for runs

ITCA-certified triathlon coach Michelle Portalatin told Shape magazine that runners should eat a light, energising snack or small meal one to two hours before they go for a training run.

For the rest of the day Shawn Hueglin, a sports dietitian and physiologist, advised runners to eat small meals every three to four hours to maintain energy. He suggests “evaluating how much I've eaten, if I'm truly hungry and not just rewarding myself for a training session well-done”.

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