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The Marathon Runner's Meal Plan

Signed up for a marathon but have no clue what this means for your diet? Check out this marathon runner’s meal plan for a look into what you should be eating as you get your training on.

Running a marathon event is no easy feat. Anyone who’s ever participated in one of these events before knows just how draining it can be. This said it’s incredibly rewarding. The feeling you get when you cross the finish line is like no other, so don’t be surprised if you’re back for more.

Part of running a marathon even successfully, however, is making sure that you are fueling your body properly. If you don’t fuel up like you should, you’re going to crash partway through your training and you just won’t have it in you to go that extra mile.

Fortunately, you can prevent this. Let’s look at what every marathon runner should be eating before they step into the race on race day.

Carbs, Carbs, Carbs

First, you’ll want to get those carbs in. Carbs will make the bulk of any marathon runners program as this is the primary source of energy the body can use during exercise. You’ll be hard-pressed to complete a marathon training program on a low carb diet. Some people can do it, but these are those who are usually very adapted to using a low carb approach and can utilize fat as fuel exceptionally well. Most people will be better on a higher carb diet. Aim to get approximately 50-60 percent of your calories from carbohydrates.

Protein For Maximum Muscle Recovery

Protein must not be forgotten about. This is one mistake that many runners make as they head for the bagels and pasta on a day to day basis. While carbs are essential, protein is needed to help repair the damaged muscle tissue as you train.

You’ll want to eat around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, which for most people will account for about 15-20 percent of their total daily calorie intake. Choose lean, unprocessed sources to get the best quality protein into your body.

Where Do Fats Fit In?

Which now leaves fats. Fats are important. While they should be consumed in moderation as they can leave you feeling sluggish and slow, your body does need them to keep your hormones optimized and to provide a long-term fuel source to use.

Especially focus on the omega-3 fatty acids as these can lower inflammation in the body, which can increase with all that exercise training.

Aim for about 20-35 percent of your total calorie intake to come from healthy fat sources.

Meal Frequency

Finally, you’ll want to eat frequently. Many marathon runners will train twice per day at times once in the morning and once in the evening so you can’t eat large meals and expect to perform optimally. Aim to eat something smaller every two to three hours during the day. This will ensure you have a steady energy supply but are never feeling too bloated to train.

A Sample Daily Meal Plan

To show you how this all looks, here’s a sample daily meal plan.

6:00 Pre-Run: 1 banana plus 1 scoop protein powder mixed with water or almond milk

8:00 Breakfast: ½ cup oatmeal, prepared with skim milk topped with 1 sliced apple, 1 tbsp. peanut butter. 1 scrambled egg mixed with ½ cup egg whites on the side.

10:00 Mid-Morning: 1 cup yogurt topped with 2 tbsp. granola and 1 cup fresh berries

Noon Lunch: 4 oz. grilled chicken breast with 1 cup brown rice and 1 cup steamed vegetables. 1 orange for dessert.

2:30 Mid-Afternoon: 1 bagel with 3 oz. low-fat deli meat, lettuce, tomato, and mustard.

5:00 Pre-Run: 1 soft tortilla topped with ½ can of tuna mixed with low-fat mayonnaise

7:30 Dinner: 200 grams baked sweet potatoes served with 3 oz. grilled salmon served with 1 cup green beans

9:00 Pre-Bed: 1 cup cottage cheese mixed with 1 tbsp. peanut butter and topped with 1 apple.

[Image via iStock/Getty]

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