Preparing for a half marathon isn’t just about the physical training – you’ve got to prepare your body with the right type of fuel before the big day.
It’s not about deciding what to eat the day of the marathon, because you have to train your body to digest the right type of energy during your training period to ensure the best results.
Luckily for you, we’ve got you covered. You don’t have to rely on a bland chicken breast and broccoli for every meal. Here are some tasty ideas for what to eat before a half marathon, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals.
Breakfasts To Eat Before A Half Marathon
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Think about it – you’ve just spent 7-10 hours unconscious with no food. Therefore, you’ve got to choose the best fuel to eat as your first meal before a half marathon.
If you are training in the morning or you’re getting ready for the actual half marathon, you’ll want something that you can easily digest and something that will keep you satisfied for several hours.
You don’t want to run on a full stomach nor an empty one.
Protein isn’t always easy to find in low-fat breakfast meals, which is why we highly recommend eating eggs for breakfast.
Pair your eggs with sourdough or a bagel if you want to eat them with toast (bagels are surprisingly low in calories).
Alternatively, opt for a bowl of oatmeal with fruits. Oatmeal is high in fiber (easy to digest!) and complex carbohydrates, which is why you feel fuller for longer after eating a bowl.
Fruits are an excellent source of healthy sugar to provide an energetic kick to your morning – we recommend bananas, blueberries, oranges, and apples.
Make sure to drink plenty of water and no caffeine. While coffee might give you a quick energy boost, you will soon crash. Plus, caffeine dehydrates the body, which won’t help in the race.
Lunches To Eat Before A Half Marathon
During your training time, you’ll want to stick to light lunches that are fairly similar to breakfasts. You need to find meals that are easy to digest and that will keep you full until dinner.
Small sandwiches (with wholemeal bread) are a good lunch option for those who don’t have time to cook a lunch. You can fill a sandwich with a variety of fillings, from an egg to chicken or just salad leaves.
Pair this sandwich with a piece of fruit such as a banana and an energy bar.
As always, continue to drink lots of water!
Dinners To Eat Before A Half Marathon
Dinner is when you can afford to eat the most amount of food in the day because your body has longer to digest the food when you sleep. This means you need to stick to protein-heavy meals.
If you eat meat, opt for a plain chicken breast (grilled for extra flavor), alongside some sort of vegetable like a salad, broccoli, or sweet potato.
Sweet potato is a lifesaver for half marathon runners. Unlike white potatoes, sweet potatoes are a complex carbohydrate that will keep you fuller for longer.
If you want something more interesting to eat, try an open beef burrito with rice and beans, a vegetable stir fry on a bed of rice, or wholemeal pasta with grilled chicken.
If you don’t eat meat, replace the chicken with hard boiled eggs. Alternatively, ditch the savory meal and have a fruit salad for dinner!
What To Eat Before A Half Marathon: The Key Points
In the days leading up to the half marathon, it’s time to stick to high-protein, moderate-calorie, and moderate-carbohydrate meals. Don’t worry about constricting your calorie intake because calories are good for you, just don’t opt for foods high in calories like chocolate!
The reason you must stick to this type of diet is because your body will store all of this fuel in preparation for the big day. In sciencey terms, the human body can store up to 2,000 calories of carbohydrates as glycogen, which can carry the body through 13.1 miles of a marathon.
While it might seem odd to not avoid carbs, remember that carbohydrates are a huge source of fuel for the body. Complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, peas, whole grains, and beans are all excellent sources of fiber that digest slowly, which provides a long source of energy.
If you’re really wanting to track your diet, the recommended intake of carbohydrates is said to be 50-60% of your daily calorie intake.
The key is to try to eat 3 meals a day without snacking in between meals. This can take some time for your body to adapt to, which is why it’s important to start your diet when you begin training.
If you do feel your energy is dropping, don’t feel too bad for having a healthy snack. Your snack options vary from energy bars and fruit to yogurt with granola or peanut butter on an English muffin.
Focus on your breakfast for the day of the half-marathon. You don’t want something too heavy and fibrous, nor do you want something that won’t provide any energy.
Running is uncomfortable if you’re full of something that won’t digest, so to avoid any gastrointestinal issues, it’s best to eat breakfast 2-4 hours before the race.
Protein pancakes topped with banana and yogurt, eggs on raisin toast, peanut butter on a bagel, or granola are all good breakfast options for the day of the race.
Make sure to drink lots of water or sports drink – we recommend drinking 2-3 milliliters of your chosen drink for every pound of body weight.
What To Avoid
You can afford to be more experimentative with the foods you eat on the days leading up to the half marathon, but not on the actual day. Introducing new foods to your diet can cause stomach problems, which is not ideal for running.
Avoid the foods you know will affect your stomach, including fructose which is found in fruits and sports drinks – or just consume these 2-4 hours before the race to allow your body time to digest it.