Marathon Race Week Nutrition & Pacing Advice

Yesterday, I posted this picture to instagram, and it was well received and seemed to be helpful. It generated a lot of questions, so I thought I'd just go ahead and address the most common one that I've been meaning to a blog post on anyway which is race week nutrition. 

If you read that post, then you can skip the next 8 steps, but if you didn't see that then here are those steps:

Left: Philly marathon (basically completely flat) and Right: Thunder Road marathon! According to a time converter, my time should have increased by 5 minutes based on the difficulty of the course but I dropped 12.5 minutes. So, how? I don't want to make this super long but wanted to try to provide what worked for me! 

1. If you are not paying attention to your nutrition, you MUST! You could be getting too little for fuel. You could be eating too much and be sluggish. I'm a firm believer in tracking for performance (I know that's personal so each person is different on how they feel) You'll never see a pro not paying attention to diet. 

2. Train APPROPRIATELY! Don't just log miles. Do tempo runs & speed work

3. LIFT WEIGHTS (especially heavy leg days during your off cycles to keep you strong)

4. It's not magic. If your training runs aren't matching up to the time you want to hit, you probably won't hit it. You can look up what your tempo, speed work, easy run and long run paces should be online based on a time you want. 

5. You cannot be weak at all. I literally wanted to die at the end. Buck up. You got this. Be tough. Don't stop no matter how bad it hurts. #girlpowerAnd don't be weak in training. Don't miss your runs. Plan your programming and do it. If you want to be a runner, be a runner and don't skip. 

6. Plan your pacing for the entire marathon based on the elevation of the course. 

7. Eats TONS of carbs days leading into it and during. This does not mean the typical pasta dinner carb load. I am NOT a fan of that. Again this should be planned how much you actually need quantified but I eat essentially no protein starting Thursday before. 

8. A little bit of luck and a lot of heart

The most asked question was about #4, #6, and #7

I wanted to provide the info for each of these. 

#4 can be found at  THIS LINK! You put in the time that you are wanting to get on your marathon, and it will give you the corresponding paces (easy, tempo, speed, Yasso, and long runs) in order to get you there. If you aren't training at the speed and tempo runs for that particular pace for a marathon then most likely, it's not going to magically happen on race day. There's a lot of science to all of this. 

#6 can be found at THIS LINK! It has a really cool function where you can look at the marathons that you’ve done and compare that to a marathon that you plan to do in the future, and it will give you a time that you should be able to hit for that. They also have where you can create a pacing band. This is created by the specific marathon that you are doing that takes into account the hills so that you know the pace that you should do on those miles because obviously it’s only realistic that you should go slower on those hills or you are going to burn out your legs, and want to save them rather for the downhill.

Lastly, #7 is what most wanted to know about. How am I supposed to specifically change my nutrition with the week leading into the race. 

If you don’t count macros, then this is where the arbitrary and infamous carb loads comes into play where you eat a massive pasta dinner the night before a race. Personally, I completely disagree with this approach as I feel it leads to lethargy, bloating, and the need to continually go to the bathroom the morning of the race because when you eat your breakfast, that is when your dinner is going to be coming through. BEING REAL. If you don’t address your digestive track for race day, then that’s another tip for another day ;) If you aren’t counting, then my simple tip would be that you should eat your big meal on the LUNCH the day before and not dinner so that you can top off your glycogen stores, but that you might be able to get that out of the way digestively before the next morning.

If you are counting, then I recommend starting on Thursday with really switching to 85% carb but with keeping the same calories. For example, if you are following a breakdown of 1800 calories with a 45% carb 30% protein 25% fat split which is 202g C 135g C 50g F respectively then you want to switch that to 85% carb 10% protein 5% fat which is 383g C 45g P 10g F respectively. In all honesty, let’s be real that’s really hard to do.

However, it’s a really great tool to have to be able to actually quantify an approach to use leading into your race week. You want to be careful though because this can lead to some serious bloating, so you want to aim for high density carbs and simple sugars. The best foods for this are going to be potatoes, beans, and fruit that will be a great whole source of carbs. Obviously, pasta and bread are a great choice too and something that I very often add into the regimen, but just recognizing that whole foods are always going to make you feel better on race day. By using this approach, you really don’t even have to think about protein or fat. Just aim for whole high carb foods at 1800 calories and most like your numbers will pan out perfectly. 

The Friday before, if you are counting still, then that’s when I recommend the same exact thing. As I mentioned, if your race is Saturday then this is the day that you want to have your big meal at lunch. I don’t recommend counting because I think that sometimes this can lead us into not eating enough to our satisfaction, but I recommend going into a restaurant and ordering a big meal that you wouldn’t normally get that’s carb heavy and eating until you are full and then stopping. Don’t overstuff yourself, and then eat a carb but whole source of carbs at dinner time (Think vegan meals not because you are vegan but because this a great thing to do the night before a race-black beans and veggie on whole wheat wraps maybe?)


The morning of the race, if you were to look at what is the best of the best, they would tell you to wake up at 3am and to eat about 600-800 calories and then go back to bed. MEH. No thanks. I’m good, and I think I’d rather have my sleep because if I got up at 3am, then my nerves would just keep me up and that sounds like a bad day ahead. Plus, who wants to eat that much then. Haha!

I recommend getting up the morning of and eating what you typically would eat before a long run which should be a good source of slow digesting carbs (oats are obviously my go to option here). If you are one that runs your long runs fasted, then this is something that I ask you to reconsider. You do not want to be going into the race day with nothing on your stomach before your marathon, and you also don’t want to go into your race day with new nutrition on your digestive track that it’s not used to. If you eat oats the morning of a race but never have before then you might end up at every porta potty and that’s certainly no way to get a PR. 

I hear many people on race morning say that they can’t stomach things because of nerves and what not, but you need to find something that you can stomach. A bagel with peanut butter maybe? A bagel is great because it packs the carbs in a small space (which is also why I don’t eat bagels much on a regular basis)

Right before the race, you want to take in a quick digesting carb. Some people go ahead and take a gu, but I’d rather have real food at this point so I aim for a banana or a Cliff Bar. Cliff is such a great company with great ingredients so I definitely recommend their bars (and that’s with no affiliation lol). I typically aim to get about 100g C before the race starts. With a bagel, and a Cliff Bar, that’s like PERFECT.

During the race, I recommend a gel/gu every 5-6 miles if you are wanting to PR. If you are just simply wanting to finish then by all means don’t worry with all that crazy amount of food, but really you are going to feel so much stronger during the race, stronger at the finish and perform better the more food and glucose that you can get in. I know that towards the end of the race, gus are the LAST thing that you want to be ingesting. I always feel as if I might vomit, but I force myself regardless.

This didn’t talk about hydration or electrolytes, and I want to say that I’ve done a blog on that before if you just search on the side, but I will say something about hydration. You really don’t want to go overboard. I think the general consensus is just to drink your brains out or something. If your pee is clear, then you are hydrated. Don’t flush all of your electrolytes because you are trying to hydrate. Just drink a great amount of water, and if your pee is clear then you’re good to go.

I hope this blog provides solid advice for you to be able to nail that race PR, and this is actually what my new endurance athlete nutritional coaching is all about. I have my clients fill out a form that indicates their weekly workotus (Run/Bike/Swim/Lift) and adjust their macros accordingly because I am such a huge advocate of tracking your intake for the best performance leading up to the race, an race week! J

Happy carbs friends! #CARBUP

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