Taper & Race-day Nutrition Q+A: Nick Morgan

Q. What is the best mix of protein, carbs and fats to eat the week before the marathon? Rob22
A. The most important thing is to continue eating a well-balanced diet composed of carbohydrate (70%), protein (15%) and fat (15%). Aim to eat around 6-9g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per day (420-620g) in the form of rice, pasta, potatoes etc. Don't try and eat loads in one go though - grazing is a much better way to consume the food you need without feeling lethargic and bloated.

Q. What would you recommend eating for dinner the night before the marathon? The Rat
A. I have a bowl of pasta with salmon and broccoli in a light tomato sauce, followed by a banana and yoghurt. Don't worry too much about having a huge portion. Ideally, you'll have started carbo-loading around three days earlier so focus on quality rather than quantity the night before.

Q. How much food should I eat the night before? Silburbas
A. Your plate should look like three quarters of it is carbohydrate; the final quarter should be fish or chicken and veg. A good portion size is simply a normal plate that looks full - not one that's overflowing.

Q. I'm struggling to get my timing right when eating before a long run - will eating a late dinner the night before affect my performance? Mouser12
A. When you eat your meals is very important. Ideally you need to eat three to four hours before you run, but this isn't always possible. Try to have a good meal the night before, then eat as early as you can before running the next day. How late you eat the night before isn't too big a concern, unless it affects your sleep patterns. Breakfast is the most important meal to time right.

Q. How much water should I drink on the morning of the race? I want to drink enough water but not so much I have to stop for a pit stop after 800 yards! Mr Missionator
A. Aim to drink 5-7ml of fluid per kilogram of body weight between three and four hours before the race (i.e. 350 - 490ml or roughly one bottle of sports drink). If your urine is still dark then top up with another 3-5ml per kilogram of body weight (i.e. about 210-350 ml or half a bottle of sports drink). This should leave you well hydrated for the start of the race.

Q. Do you have to use energy products? lovely_lovely_gorgeous
A. You don't have to use anything but energy products can be really beneficial. The marathon is an immense challange that will really test your resolve. Covering the distance relies heavily on carbohydrate but the body can only store about 2000kcal. Depending how fast you run, this will become significantly depleted after about 90 minutes of running - certainly well before you reach Mile 26. Our analysis of last year's Flora London Marathon finishers showed that the vast majority reduced their pace from the 20K point until the end of the marathon. Therefore, some carbohydrate every hour will be better than none.

Q. When should I take my first sports drink - an hour or so before the race or once I have started running? Back Seat Boy
A. One hour before is common practice. Your blood sugar will rise because of the carbohydrate content, but there is no evidence to suggest it'll have any impact on your race.

Q. Is there a limit to the number of gels you can take during a marathon if you're drinking sports drink as well? The Rat
A. There isn't a limit per se, but your body can't use more than 60g of carbohydrate per hour. One gel gives you around 34g so taking one gel every hour (and topping this up with sports drink) is good advice.

Q. I struggle to eat gels as they seem to give me an upset tummy. I've managed my longs run just by taking on a small amount of liquid - should I stick with this strategy at this stage? Mouser12
A. With three weeks to go until race day, there isn't much time left to try new strategies. However, although you might have felt fine on your long runs, the marathon does start to get harder in the final miles. I would find a way of using sports drink on course if you can and try some Jelly Babies during some of your smaller runs (or last long run) in training. If you still have concerns, then my advice would be to pace yourself carefully so you don't go off too fast. Otherwise you will really challenge your carbohydrate stores.

Q. Are energy products such as chews and gels really of any superior benefit to sweets like Jelly Babies or Fruit Pastilles? kittenkat
A. The key things to think about are:

  • how much carbohydrate the product provides (remember you need between 30 and 60g per hour)
  • which products you find easiest to consume
  • which products you prefer

Find a balance between what you prefer and the best way to get enough carbohydrate. Gels are a great source of simple carbohydrates so if you like them and can stomach them, use them.


Don't miss our next live forum debate - part of a series in our 2009 Flora London Marathon build-up. On Friday April 17, we'll be welcoming Olympic athlete - and Lucozade Sport Super Six mentor - Liz Yelling into the forums between 1pm and 2pm to answer your last-minute race-week questions. Pop the date in your diary now!