The Boston Marathon is in one week! The week leading up to the race can be exciting, yet nerve-wrecking. Tapering, an essential part of training, can be difficult for some runners. Figuring out what and how much to eat adds another challenge.
In the week leading up to the race, you need to build up your glycogen stores so you have as much available energy during the race as possible. This will help you avoid “hitting the wall” and will improve your race performance (and marathon enjoyment).
Building maximum glycogen stores is usually accomplished by training less (AKA the taper), and consuming a foundation of carbohydrate-rich foods at each meal. Aim for 60-65% of your calories to come from carbohydrates. This should include fruits, vegetables, grains (whole grains are preferred), and legumes. The best way to do this is to include carbohydrates at every meal and snack, rather than loading up only at dinner.
Here is a sample of what a day might look like :
Breakfast: 2 pieces whole-wheat toast with 2 tbsp peanut butter & 1 medium banana
Morning snack: Medium apple & 1 serving pretzels (or crackers)
Lunch: Turkey & Swiss cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread with 1-cup minestrone soup
Afternoon snack: 1-cup plain yogurt with 1-cup strawberries and ½ cup low-fat granola
Dinner: 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat spaghetti with marinara sauce and 2 turkey meatballs, a side salad & small whole-wheat dinner roll.
Evening snack: 1 Orange & 1 oatmeal raisin cookie
Note: This is an estimate based on a 2,500-2,600 calorie per day diet. Depending on your gender, body size, and training load, you may need more or less calories throughout the day.
The original “Ahlborg” method of carbo-loading included a depletion phase, in which the marathoner would increase training intensity about 7 days from the race, while decreasing carbohydrate consumption, thereby depleting glycogen stores. Then, 3 days pre-race, the runner would increase carbohydrate consumption and decrease training to re-fuel. However, research has now shown that this period of depletion is not necessary.
In the week pre-marathon, you want to eat similarly to how you’ve been eating throughout your training. This is not a time to try new foods or new eating patterns. You also don’t need to eat more than you’ve been consuming throughout training because you will be exercising less. Your body will simply store more of the carbohydrates in your muscles (muscle glycogen) instead of burn them off.
It’s common to feel slightly bloated, and even to gain up to 3-4 pounds during the week before the marathon. Don’t worry! Carbohydrates are naturally stored with water. Therefore, as you store carbohydrates, you will add water weight and volume to your muscles.
Lastly, and most importantly, on the night before the marathon, eat what you’ve eaten the night before your long runs. This is not the time to try a new food; you don’t know how your stomach will react the next day.
Best of luck to all of you running the Boston Marathon!
What’s your favorite meal to eat the night before a big race?
Eat well, run hard, and enjoy the race! Welcome to Boston!
- your food and fitness friend (in conjunction with Nancy Clark, RD CSSD)