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Pre-Event Nutrition for a (half-) marathon & competition fluid and fuel: This is how it works!

German marathon champion Hendrik Pfeiffer recommends MoN Sports

The right diet could enhance the performance in a marathon

The importance of the right diet during a (half-) marathon.

A big goal for many people is to run the famous 42.19km once in a lifetime. Most people probably know that this requires a fair amount of discipline. However, the necessary know-how about proper nutrition is often missing.

Whilst we have plenty of tips & tricks from professional runner Peter Herzog on the ideal marathon preparationwe in THISarticle, we will now talk about the optimal diet before the marathon and during the marathon.

To run 42km (and even 21km) your body needs a lot of energy. You should provide your body with energy by consuming the right diet. If you don’t, you simply won’t be able to deliver your performance in the competition – and in the worst case scenario, you’ll have to abandon it.

To avoid this, you can already do a few things before the starting signal.

Pre-event fuelling before a marathon: This is what matters

The most important fuel in the pre-event period before a marathon is carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates can be stored in the form of glycogen in your muscles and liver. When you do sports, your body draws on these stores and supplies itself with the necessary energy.

The bigger these stores are, the more energy is available to you. Therefore it makes sense to fill the glycogen stores as much as possible.

In the days before a marathon, so-called carbohydrate loading is suitable for this purpose.

Carbohydrate loading pursues the idea of improving the athletic performance of those events where depletion of glycogen stores can become a limiting factor. According to the duration of a competition, the carbohydrate loading gains importance by the time.

The idea of carbohydrate loading is not only to fill the glycogen stores but also to make them even fuller.

For this purpose, the muscle glycogen stores are depleted by an intense workout and refilled by carbohydrates loading. This leads to the glycogen stores becoming “overfull” – and can supply you with energy for a long time in the competition.

To achieve this, one should aim for a high carbohydrate diet (6-8g carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight) for 2-3 days before the competition.

This diet recommends to take high-carbohydrate meals and snacks that are easy to digest. It is recommended to eat food which you are used to.

Potatoes, for example, are well suited for this purpose. These provide not only carbohydrates, but also potassium, which is important for glycogen storage.

Other foods that have proven successful are pasta, rice, porridge or fruits such as mango, bananas or raisins.

Additionally you can use carbohydrate drinks or bars, like our PORRIDGE BAR .

High amounts of fat and/or protein should be avoided. On the one hand, these nutrients have a very filling effect – which can get in the way of carbohydrate intake – on the other hand, you avoid a sudden increase in total energy intake.

You can find out more about Carbo-Loading HERE.

The perfect breakfast before a (half) marathon

The pre-event meal before a marathon should provide you with energy and at the same time be as tolerable as possible.

For this purpose, it is best to reduce the fibre content of the pre-event meal. A lot of fat and protein at breakfast should be avoided to prevent digestive problems.

How much you should eat depends on how much time is between the meal and the start.

The guidelines for this are:

1h before start: 1g carbohydrates/kg body weight
2h before start: 2g carbohydrates/kg body weight
3h before start: 2-3g carbohydrates/kg body weight
4h before start: 2.5-3g carbohydrates/kg body weight.

Specific examples of a pre-marathon breakfast would be:

  • Porridge (cooked with water) with raisins
  • White bread with jam/honey
  • Toast with a small amount of almond purée and banana
  • White basmati rice
  • Polenta porridge (with banana)
  • A bowl of rice pops/corn flakes
  • Carbohydrate bar (e.g. 1-2h before start)

Try out different breakfast options during training and find your personal favorite. You’ll avoid surprises on race day and won’t have to think about what to eat on the big day.

This might help you: If you plan to run your marathon in a foreign city or abroad, choose your race breakfast so you can be sure to find it in hotels.

After breakfast we go to the warm up

Final preparations before the start

Since the marathon is very long and full glycogen stores are very important as mentioned, use the warm-up again for carbohydrate loading.

The best way to do this is to go for a carbohydrate drink which is not too concentrated. If you keep away from solid food just before the marathon you can avoid digestive problems.

Well suited during the warm-up would be e.g. our SLOW CARB (25g in 500ml water, no more).

The ISOLMALTULOS in SLOW CARB slowly passes into the blood and provides you with long-lasting energy. In addition, SLOW CARB – like all our products – is rich in natural antioxidants.

Antioxidants are natural protective substances which help your body in stressful situations. Since strenuous physical exertion is also a stressful situation for the body, antioxidants are very important for the health of athletes.

In SLOW CARB, the antioxidants have their origin in the real sour cherry fruit powder.

Last but not least, when you take SLOW CARB you don’t have to worry about stomach compatibility – especially because of the all-natural ingredients. In addition, the carbohydrate drink before the race helps you to be well hydrated at the start. Especially at high outside temperatures, fluid and mineral intake before the start is of great importance.

The diet during the marathon: here’s how to do it right

During the marathon you have to make sure to take in enough carbohydrates. Even if you have been carbohydrate loading, the glycogen stores in your body will usually not last until the end of the marathon.

If the glycogen stores become empty, it will be very difficult for you to continue running. You will hit a wall.

Your goal should be to avoid this phenomenon at all costs.

We’ll give you some practical tips & tricks on how to do it.

Start with the energy supply early enough.

Normally there are eight refreshment stations at a marathon event, four at a half marathon. Every five kilometres there is an aid station. It’s useful that you take advantage of all 8 carbohydrate intake options.

What sounds very simple can feel wrong at first. Because at the first 2-3 refreshment stations you usually still feel fit and don’t feel the need to add carbohydrates or fluids.

However, this leads to your glycogen stores becoming more and more depleted. When you start to add carbohydrates from kilometre 20 onwards, it is already too late: as you continue to require high amounts of energy, the carbohydrates added are no longer sufficient to compensate for the energy deficit.

Now we know all food stations should be used. However, we still need to consider how many carbohydrates are best to supply.

Pay attention to the right amount of carbohydrates.

With the high loads of the marathon, carbohydrate amounts of about 80g/h are necessary.

To consume such high amounts of carbohydrates in a short period of time, it is important to choose a carbohydrate drink that contains multiple carbohydrate sources or a carbohydrate mixture.

Along the way, multiple transporters are used to pass the carbohydrates to your muscle. If only one carbohydrate source (e.g. fructose) is contained in the beverage, only one transporter is used accordingly.

However, one transporter alone can only transport about 60g of carbohydrates. This is not enough for the needed 80g.

A good solution would be e.g. our POWER CARB. The carbohydrates in POWER CARB come from MALTODEXTRIN and FRUCTOSE, furthermore there is real ANANASPOWDER in POWER CARB. This provides you with additional, natural power.

Another advantage of the POWER CARB is that the carbohydrates quickly go into the blood and are available to your organism after a short time. Fast power for fast steps 😉

Also our GEL 40 contains different carbohydrate sources (maltodextrin of different chain length & fructose). SThey provide you with 40g of carbohydrates and are well tolerated. The total weight of 60g makes it easier to carry several gels.

Avoid digestive problems

One of the biggest challenges of nutrition in a marathon is to supply high amounts of carbohydrates while avoiding digestive problems.

It is therefore very important to practice carbohydrate intake during training. You can gradually increase the amount you consume until you reach the amount of energy you need for the marathon.

The practice of energy intake into the training plan is very important for a marathon preparation and should not be underestimated in any case.

This process is called “Train the Gut.”

Especially at the marathon distance, training energy intake can make the difference between best time and race cancellation.

Furthermore, it is important that you take a good look at the ingredients of your products.

One good clue is the length of the ingredients list. If it is very long you should become a little critical. Few, specific ingredients can be better used by your body and you prevent digestive problems.

Naturally, less processed raw materials are better tolerated.

This is one reason why we rely on natural ingredients in our products.

The right dosage on the track

You should try to add about 200-250ml of drink every 20-25 minutes (at each aid station) (dissolving 80g POWER CARB in 500ml of water). In one hour of competition you should drink about one bottle of POWER CARB drink.

If you prefer a different consistency (for a change on the track), we also offer you our GEL 40 (1-2 gels with 40g KH per hour – depending on how much KH drinks are added: The goal is always about 80g KH per hour).

To avoid digestive problems try to drink water consistently.

Our recommendations:

Half marathonrefreshments
4 refreshment stations, every 5km:
Each 30-40g POWER CARB in 250ml or 1 GEL 40

Marathon refreshments
8 refreshment stations, every 5km: Each 40-50g POWER CARB in 250ml or 1 GEL 40

Some tips for better regeneration

After running 42km your body is completely exhausted. Your glycogen reserves are depleted and your muscles are tired. For this reason, you need to help your body to get back on track.

The best way to do so is to add nutrients that support the regeneration process. These are both carbohydrates and proteins:

0.8g carbohydrates/kg body weight in combination with 0.2-0.4g protein/kg body weight have proven to be perfect.

In order for these ingested nutrients to achieve their maximum effect, it is important to consume them within one hour after the competition. During this time, your body is particularly receptive to the nutrients supplied and can use them optimally for regeneration.

After muscularly particularly strenuous activities such as a marathon, the optimal protein supply requires special attention. In order to nourish the used muscles as best as possible, you should try to supply as many essential amino acids as possible.

Essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body itself they must be taken up with food.

Finding a snack right after the marathon that contains all 8 of the essential amino acids is not so easy – this is also where special sports drinks like our RECOVERY 8 helps. The R8 contains not only all 8 essential amino acids from vegetable, high-quality raw materials, but also carbohydrates in the appropriate mixing ratio and the natural regeneration turbo mango.

After such a high load as a marathon the recovery phase takes time. Therefore, 20-30 minutes after the R8 has been drunk, we recommend adding our RECOVERY SHAKE to be added. This “strategy” has proven itself with many Top athletes who rely on MoN Sports.

The RECOVERY SHAKE contains high-quality proteins in addition to quickly available carbohydrates. In addition, there is an extra portion of the amino acids leucine and glutamine.

While leucine supports muscle recovery, glutamine helps the immune system. This is important because the organism is weak after intensive stress and thus susceptible to diseases.

After all, the joy of a successful marathon should not be impaired by an infection afterwards.

We wish you a great time and good luck!

[1] A. Jeukendrup, M. Gleeson; Sport Nutrition,Third Edition.
[2] Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance.
[3] Gut-training: The impact of two weeks repetitive gut-challenge during exercise on gastrointestinal status.
[4] Ibrahim Elmadfa, C. Leitzmann, Ernährung des Menschen; 6th ed.

The right products for your competition


Robert Gorgos

Robert Gorgos

Robert is a authority when it comes to sports nutrition science. As a nutritionist, he coaches many well-known top athletes, including the professional cyclists from BORA – hansgrohe. At the same time, he is a competitive athlete himself. And: Robert has developed the sports nutrition of MoN Sports.

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