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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Nutrition tips to ensure maximum energy levels when running a marathon

Refuel, repair, and rehydrate are the cardinal principles of any kind of marathon running. So, make sure you make the right food choices and consume a lot of fluids with these easy health tips.

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: April 30, 2019 1:17:18 pm
healthy tips, easy tips, marathon runner, marathon running, nutrition, Make sure you make the right food choices and consume a lot of fluids while preparing for a marathon. (Photo: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Marathons are slowly gaining popularity across all age-groups. Training and nutrition are two of the major factors in the preparation of any marathon event- be it full or half. Therefore, it becomes imperative to keep a track on a well-balanced diet.

Nutritionist Nmami Agarwal, nutritionist and the founder of Nmami Life, suggests a few basic guidelines that a marathon runner can follow to meet the nutrition requirement to keep the energy level on maximum.

Slow carbs and complex carbs

Since carbohydrates are the main source of energy during high-intensity activities, they are utilised in the form of glucose within the body and are stored as glycogen. Marathon runners have to fuel the body by consuming slow carbohydrates also known as complex carbs. Sixty to sixty-five per cent of daily calorie intake should be derived from complex carbs like ragi, jowar, bajra, oats, brown rice, wheat pasta, and whole wheat. Not having sufficient resource of either of these two can lead to hypoglycemia, dizziness, and fatigue.

complex carbs, wheat, ragi, brown rice Sixty to sixty-five per cent of daily calorie intake should be derived from complex carbs. (Photo: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

High quality protein

Protein should be consumed to derive at least 15-20 per cent of the daily calorie intake because protein helps in rebuilding of muscles and maintenance of lean muscle mass that can provide effective endurance to complete marathon training. Good sources of high quality protein include chicken, fish, soy products like soybeans, soy milk, tofu, and nuggets, dairy products like milk, curd, and cottage cheese, legumes like chickpeas and green peas, nuts like almonds, and seeds like hemp seeds. Certain grains like buckwheat, quinoa, and oats also provide considerable amounts of protein.

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Healthy fats

Fats are essential macronutrients that provide a concentrated form of energy to enhance performance. However, the focus should be on the consumption of good fats (polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids), like fish, whole eggs, flaxseeds, almonds, walnuts, avocado, olive oil, and chia seeds. The consumption of saturated fats like butter, red meat, poultry with skin, cream, mayonnaise, and margarine should be kept to a minimum or none at all.


Fluid deficit can impair running to a great extent. Maintaining hydration is critical for marathon running as dehydration can put an extra strain on the body and can drain you of the required energy. A good hydration practice involves optimum water intake, and consumption of other fluids in the form of buttermilk, vegetable juices and electrolyte balancing sports drinks. Electrolyte balancing is important because as you sweat, you tend to lose out on sodium, chloride, and potassium.

hdration, water health benefits A good hydration practice involves optimum water intake. (Photo: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Pre-marathon and post-marathon diet tips

The appropriate pre-marathon meal, consumed one to two hours prior to the event, will provide you with enough fuel to take on the challenge. An extra dose of fibre is recommended as it can prevent any gastrointestinal discomfort during the race. A serving of fruit smoothie, cereal with milk, egg/chicken sandwich with veggies or multigrain toasts with curd are some of the ideal options.

Mid-run fuel is equally essential. For events that are going to last for more than 60 minutes, 15-20 grams of carbs should be consumed every 45 minutes. The carb intake should be diluted with water so it is important to keep sipping water too. Mid-run fuel options include energy gels, chews, and sports drinks. Natural sources include honey, figs, and dates.

For post-recovery, it is essential to consume carbohydrate with dairy along with quality protein within two hours of running. You can consume a banana smoothie, avocado sandwich, curd with cereal and nuts.


Keep yourself well hydrated by drinking minimum 3 litres of water and other fluids.

This sample diet plan provides the generic advice/information only. It is not a suggested/recommended diet plan to substitute with any qualified nutritional prescription.

Early Morning (6-7 AM) Soaked almonds (5-6), walnuts (3-4), fig (1), dates (2)

(8:30- 9 AM)

Egg sandwich (multigrain bread slices – 2 + 2 boiled whole eggs + guacamole spread) + 1 glass low fat milk


Chicken sandwich (multigrain bread slices – 2 + 80 gm boiled skinless chicken + pesto spread) + 1 serving spinach kiwi smoothie


(11-11:30 AM)

1 Tender coconut water


Vegetable juice blend of apple, beetroot, carrot


1 glass salted buttermilk with mint


(1:30-2:00 PM)

Brown rice vegetable sprouted moong pulao with spinach raita


2-3 wheat+oats chapatti with moong dal and mix vegetable


2 wheat+besan chapatti with boiled chicken gravy and ½ serving rice


Stuffed vegetable+paneer bran wrap with hung curd dip

Evening Supper

(5-5:30 PM)

Sweet potato chaat with shredded tofu (5-6 pieces)


Homemade granola bar without sugar ( made of oats + peanuts+ jaggery+ chia seeds+ flaxseeds)


1 bowl cubed cantaloupe with pomegranate seeds


Moong and beetroot cutlets (baked or air fried)


1 boiled corn cob


(7:30-8:00 PM)

Grilled salmon gravy (60 gm salmon) with brown rice (100 gm cooked)


Whole wheat veg pasta with 50 gm cottage cheese


Rice noodles in chicken soup


Grilled or steamed veggies with 30 gm cooked quinoa

Post dinner

(9:30-10:00 PM)

1 glass golden milk (skimmed milk with ½ teaspoon turmeric)


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