Created by Jen Miramontes, founder of Cancer Champions. Jen has run 80 marathons, dozens of half marathons, and has been a competitive runner for most of her life.
Half-Marathon Diet: Carb-Loading – 2 to 3 days before the race
For one to three days before the half-marathon, your goal is to store as much glycogen, or energy, in your muscles as possible. As your body’s primary source of fuel, quality carbohydrates should be the focus of your meals.
When carb-loading in your half-marathon diet, eat approximately 4.5 grams of carbs for each pound of body weight. Healthy carb choices include grains such as whole grain bread, pasta, and brown rice, as well as fruits, vegetables, and beans.
Simply put, we need to focus on including plenty of complex carbohydrates in your diet. Complex carbohydrates help provide the energy you need to perform. Try to incorporate a few of these foods into your daily diet:
- Whole-grain bread
- Whole-grain pasta
- Brown rice
- Legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
Two days before the race try these suggestions:
- High-carb breakfast: Rice Cakes with Almond Butter & Banana, add yogurt and some fruit, or Steel Cut Oats with Almond Butter & Banana
- Lunch: Baked Chicken with Turmeric Rice & Greens, peas, an apple and a cup of whole milk or similar beverage.
- High-carb dinner: Shrimp & Green Beans, toss with whole-wheat spaghetti, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and topped with grated Parmesan cheese (not a lot of this) with a slice of bread and a wedge of fresh watermelon.
What to Eat the Day Before Your Half Marathon
Like the morning of your half marathon (more on that below), you don’t want to experiment. Generally, you want to follow the routine you’ve already established in the weeks leading up to your race.
Stick to your usual menu the day before your race. Generally, try to eat meals that are balanced in protein, fat and carbohydrates (you can go slightly lower for the fats). And while you want to follow your usual routine, a simple, go-to day of eating can include:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal or toast with almond or peanut butter and fresh fruit
- Lunch: Simple Chicken Cobb Salad
- Dinner: Salmon & Brown Rice with grilled vegetables
Since the race is in the morning, you may want to avoid high fiber foods (like cruciferous vegetables), as they can be tough to digest and may make it harder to sleep the night before the event. Plus, they may mess with your typical morning bathroom schedule.
Another good tip: Steer clear of greasy foods and alcohol the day and (especially) evening before a half marathon. These can cause unwanted digestion issues you’ll definitely want to avoid mid-run.
What to Eat the Morning of a Half Marathon
Your breakfast before a half marathon should be light in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat and fiber to prevent tummy issues during the run. Running on a full stomach can be uncomfortable, so plan to eat breakfast two or more hours before the start of the race.
Don’t try any new foods for the first time; this is no time to run the risk of stomach problems. If you choose to consume sports drinks or protein bars right before the race, avoid anything with fructose, as it can cause diarrhea.
You can test a few of these breakfast combinations this week to see which foods sit best in your stomach.
- Whole-grain bagel with peanut butter and honey
- Whole-grain toast with a cooked egg
- Rice Cakes with Almond Butter & Banana
At all times, stay adequately hydrated. Four hours prior to the race, drink 2 to 3 milliliters of water or sports drink per pound of body weight.
* Although fats and proteins also provide energy for physical activity, they are not broken down quickly enough to fuel high-intensity exercise. Consider carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, fruits or vegetables, for breakfast before a half-marathon so your body will have a steady source of energy when running.