How to fuel your first marathon

As you log your miles, you also need to practice your nutrition, a crucial part of getting you through 26.2 miles. Even if this isn’t your first marathon, these tips can help power your training runs and race. 

1/ Nothing new on race day

You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: don’t try anything on race day that you haven’t practiced during training. Test different mid-race fuel options, amounts, and timing on your long runs and take note of what works for race day. Once you find nutrition that works for you, be sure to bring it to the starting line. Research the race: if it carries your brand and flavour at its fuel stops, great! If not, move along.

2/ You will need mid-run fuel

Maybe you got by on a fuel long runs without refuelling (tut tut), but over the course of 26.2 miles, your body will not be able to propel you forward without fuelling every 30 to 45 minutes. It’s better to have a little extra nutrition stowed away than not enough.

Related: 4 sugar rules for race fuelling

3/ It’s all about the timing

For runs longer than 60 minutes (your long runs and your race), start with 30 grams of carbs every 30 to 45 minutes. Your stomach can absorb up to 60 grams of carbs per hour when diluted with water.

4/ Listen to your body

While you’re practicing your fuelling during long runs, pay attention to how you feel toward the end and once you finish. If you finish feeling good, you likely have a great nutrition plan in place. If you’re totally wiped out, try adding 15 grams of carbs per hour. If you finish feeling energised but with GI distress, you probably ate too much, didn’t drink enough water or need to experiment with other fuel sources.

5/ Read the labels

Gels: In order to dilute the high sugar content, chase with a few sips of water. Try taking gels when you’re approaching a water stop. It may also be helpful to consume a gel slowly, over the course of a few minutes.

Related: Should you grab a gel, energy bar or sports drink?

Chews: Like gels, chase with water. Split packs of six chews into two fuelling stops to avoid consuming too much sugar

Sports drinks: These drinks provide about 15 grams of carbs per 225ml, but choosing a brand that has less sugar - six to 12 grams per 450ml - can keep your stomach settled. Try alternating water and sports drink at each fluid stop, drinking to meet your thirst.

6/ Top off the tank

Mid-run fuelling will help maintain your energy levels over the course of 26.2 miles, but your pre-run meals are crucial. For the two to three meals before your race, choose high-carb, moderate-protein, and low-fat and fibre options. Try: pasta primavera with chicken for a pre-run dinner and a bagel topped with peanut butter and a banana for a pre-run breakfast.

7/ Fuelling continues after your run

Within 30 minutes to an hour post-run, refuel with 15 to 30 grams of protein to prevent further muscle breakdown and kickstart recovery. It’s also important to replenish your glycogen stores and the harder the workout, the more you’ll need. When in doubt, aim for 60 to 120 grams of carbohydrate in addition to your protein post-workout.