Marathon Diet - Improve Nutrition to do Better at the Marathon

by John

I have got a question about my marathon diet. I have been an athlete all my life; mostly a runner, but cycle long distances sometimes. I am training for a marathon and have been running 15-20 miles weekly long runs; less on other days.

The problem is that my wife tells me repeatedly that I eat crap (and lots of it) for food. She is right; I have done so all my life. I am ready (needing) to make major changes in my diet, now that I am training for this marathon. I still comfortably run 10 - 12 miles and recover quickly. I am finding that I am more tired and wiped out after the very long runs.

What are the most important marathon nutrition musts for my situation? I get physicals yearly and have no known health problems. Cholesterol, blood pressure are great. I am skinny, but not underweight.

Thanks for the guidance.

marathon training tips

Answer by Dominique:
Hi there,
Thanks for your question about your marathon diet.

Interesting question.

My wife always says that I never believe her.

She'll say these things, e.g. "trees have green leaves" and I'll sort of ignore it.

Then I hear somebody else saying "trees have green leaves" and the next thing I do is tell my wife "hey, did you know, trees have green leaves."

Drives her crazy.

Maybe you should listen to your wife a bit more, I know that mine thinks I should.... :)

Deep down, you probably know what types of food are healthy and which aren't.

In the end, it is not rocket science:

As any human being, you should try to stay away from products containing too much sugar, fast food and non-fresh food.

A simple rule: when the food contains more than 10% sugar, then don't eat it. This means, no sugary cereals, no fruit juice, no candy, no cookies, no sodas / soft drinks etc.

Aim to eat vegetables and fruit. Yes, you should eat some energy food like pasta or rice; it would be great if you'd aim for wholegrain varieties. Alternatives are potatoes, quinoa, cous-cous, etc.

Get some protein, via meat, fish or tofu for example.

Make sure you plan out your snacks. People can be really structured about their main meals, but then completely screw up their diet when they get hungry and can't contain themselves.

I used to have a muffin at 10'o clock in the morning, pretty much every morning. For years. In the last few years I have replaced this with a hand of almonds. Way more healthy and it fills me up just the same. Less fun. But better.... Good alternative is a piece of fruit as well, a rice cake or cracker with some nut butter, some yoghurt, etc.

Because you are training for a marathon, you do need to eat more than the average person. The great thing about long-distance running is that you can virtually eat all you want, without gaining weight. However, eat the right, nutritious foods and you'll recover better and will also end up having more energy, making you faster in the end.

One reason why you are probably eating this much and are always hungry is that your body is craving nutrition. Because you don't feed it the right foods, it keeps on asking for more.

When you add healthy, nutritious foods to your marathon diet, you will find that you are full more quickly and don't need to keep on eating.

I am convinced that you'll be able to make some quick and easy changes to your marathon diet. In turn, this will most definitely make you feel better, recover quicker, sleep better, etc.

There is a lot to be gained.

The best way to approach your new marathon diet is to be really structured about it:

  • Aim for 5-6 meals each day (breakfast, lunch, dinner with some snacks in between). Stop the endless snacking. Have breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and a night snack.

  • Then go meal by meal and find replacements for the things you are currently eating. Like the snack example I gave before. Replace muffins by nuts or fruit, replace your breakfast, chocolate coated, sugar laden, heart attack provoking cereal and replace it with oats.

  • I hear you thinking: "But I won't taste as nice, I don't want to give up my sugary, obesity-inducing, artery-clogging treats!". Find ways to make it taste nicely; to make it more interesting.

    There are a 1,001 varieties to wholegrain pasta with vegetables or noodles with a vegetable stir fry. It's amazing what a few herbs and spices can do to change a dish. All incredibly tasty, all incredibly good for you. But you have to want to make the change.

    Now, it sounds like you have been active for a long period in your life. The great thing about that is that you do not have to live like a monk.

    Cheating once in a while is okay. But I find that it is easier to take things very black-and-white. No sugar, no fast food. That's very clear. Those are hard and fast rules. Not a lot of room to deviate. When you do, you know you are overstepping the mark.

    Further recommended reading:

    Runner's Diet - General guidelines for the healthy runner's diet.

    Marathon Training Nutrition - Specific guidelines for marathon nutrition.

    Oh and last tip: listen to your wife a bit more... :)

    Hope this helps.
    Kind regards,

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