Little Runner Gal

Running, eating, sleeping and all the bits in between

Marathon Nutrition: A Trial Run

on October 28, 2014


As my time goal at the Berlin Marathon was no longer an option, I decided to try a few new things out in preparation for the big day to see if they would work for future marathons…yes, there are more, of course!

This post comes with a warning. This was something I tried to see how it would go. I’m not a nutritionist, I’m not a dietician and I love my food. I would just like to be able to run a marathon in the best way possible.

Don’t go out doing anything crazy!


So, the very basic science behind this (oh yes, I’m no scientist either!) is that you deprive your muscles of carbohydrates for a few days in the week before your race and then load back up in the days before the race. This supposedly maximises your glycogen stores, the main source of energy for your muscles.


My race was on the Sunday, so the week before I spent Sunday to Wednesday (inclusive) eating a very low carb diet. Then Thursday to Saturday was high carb, about 90% of my food over those days. Then normal pre race breakfast on Sunday and off I went.


During the low carb days I was eating lots of the following:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Dairy (full fat)
  • Leafy veg
  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Water, tea and coffee (unsweetened)

And none of the following:

  • Sugar
  • Sugary drinks
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Porridge
  • Breakfast cereals
  • High energy fruits e.g. bananas
  • Cakes and sweets
  • Desserts
  • Artificial sweeteners and products containing them

Yes it was a very boring few days!

Obviously the high carb days were lots of pasta, potatoes, rice etc. Not crazy amounts. My normal size plate, just with much more of the carb option and much less of the protein part of the meal.

The day before race day, some simple carbs (hooray, it’s cake time!) were also on the menu as the body can use simple sugars as well in a marathon situation (any excuse really!).


Here’s how it went.

Oh, I forgot to tell you, I’m still training and running in this week as well, tapering for the race.

So Sunday I went out for my long run of 75 minutes without any carbs for breakfast. Normal porridge was replaced by an omelette. It was tougher than normal but possibly psychological. I had glycogen stores in the tank. I had no gels either (sugar) so by the end of the run was pretty fatigued. Not being able to replace the carbs I’d lost was hard as my body normally craves the right things, so it knew it needed carbs and I was all “no, no, here’s a chicken breast”.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were all easy 20-40 minute runs which got progressively slower as the days went on and my glycogen stores disappeared. I felt week and by the Wednesday I was highly irritable!

Thursday was beautiful. Porridge and banana for breakfast was like heaven! My progression run that day ended at much faster than marathon pace (oops!) I just had so much energy!

Friday I was travelling, the most cereals bars you’ve ever seen in 1 tiny suitcase and a good ol’ Italian for dinner.

Also sought out some bircher muesli, milk and yogurt to make my pre race breakfast and store in the hotel room mini fridge.

Tested that on Saturday morning before a short run and it worked a treat. More pasta on Saturday night and I was ready to go!


How did it go? LIKE A DREAM! I continued with my normal gel strategy, 1 at 45 minutes, then 1 every 30 minutes after that, with the last 2 being caffeine gels. I felt strong throughout the whole race, with no lulls in energy or periods of excess fatigue. The 18 mile mark at London was where I hit the wall, but this came and went. The 20 mile mark can be where it is said to fall apart, but that came and went. I felt as strong coming up to the final 2km as I had for the whole race, my legs were fine and my head was too.

So while there are many facets to a successful race, and a successful nutrition strategy, I can say that this worked for me, and I will be doing it again.

Just steer clear of me the Wednesday before a marathon…there’s no rage like it!



2 responses to “Marathon Nutrition: A Trial Run

  1. rocknrolly says:

    Awesome! It’s great to hear it is possible to get through a marathon without hitting the wall… I look forward to when that day might happen for me!

  2. […] a separate note on nutrition, I tried a carb depletion, carb loading strategy the week before Berlin Marathon which I think worked well, so I’ll be doing this before Brighton […]

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