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Mastering Marathon Training: A Sports Dietitian's Guide

Marathon training isn't just about pounding the pavement; it's a holistic journey that encompasses physical endurance, mental resilience, and nutritional fortitude. As a sports dietitian, I've seen firsthand the impact of proper nutrition on athletes' performance during training and races. In this comprehensive guide, I'll delve into essential marathon training tips, focusing on optimizing nutrition strategies to help you reach the finish line with strength and speed.

Trialing Different Strategies:

One of the fundamental principles of marathon training is individualization. What works for one runner may not necessarily work for another. Therefore, it's crucial to trial different nutrition strategies during training to identify what suits your body best. Race day is not the day to try anything new, so trialing and fine tuning during the period leading up to the race is essential. 

Experiment with various pre-run meals to find the perfect balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats that provide sustained energy without causing digestive discomfort. Some runners thrive on a high-carb diet, while others may benefit from incorporating some protein and healthy fats. Allow 2-3 hours digestion between a meal and the start of a run and top off with a carb-rich snack 30-60 minutes before.

Training Your Stomach:

Training your stomach is as important as training your muscles. During long-distance runs, the gastrointestinal (GI) system undergoes significant stress, leading to issues like cramping, bloating, and diarrhea if not properly managed. To avoid GI distress on race day, gradually increase your intake of fluids and carbohydrates during training runs. Start by consuming small amounts of easily digestible snacks like energy gels, bananas, or sports drinks every 30-45 minutes to train your gut to tolerate nutrition while running.

Supplements to Consider:

While a well-balanced diet should be the cornerstone of your nutrition plan, supplements can complement your training regimen and address specific needs. Here are some supplements to consider incorporating into your marathon training:

  • Sports Drink/Carb Mix: During prolonged exercise, your body relies heavily on carbohydrates for fuel. Consuming a sports drink or carb mix containing glucose, fructose, and electrolytes can provide a readily available source of energy to sustain performance and delay fatigue. Aim to consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour during long runs to optimize endurance and prevent glycogen depletion.

  • Blackcurrants: Blackcurrant extract has gained popularity in the athletic community for its potential to enhance endurance performance and reduce muscle soreness. Rich in antioxidants and anthocyanins, blackcurrants may improve blood flow, oxygen delivery to muscles, and recovery post-exercise. Incorporating a blackcurrant supplement like 2before into your pre-race routine could offer a natural performance boost. 2before comes in both caffeinated and non-caffeinated forms. Try it here: Discount code: JESSICA

  • Caffeine: Caffeine is a well-known ergogenic aid that can enhance endurance performance by reducing perceived exertion and increasing alertness. Consuming caffeine before or during long runs may improve focus, delay fatigue, and boost overall performance. However, individual tolerance varies, so experiment with caffeine dosages in training to determine what works best for you.

  • Electrolytes: Electrolyte imbalances can occur during prolonged exercise, leading to symptoms like muscle cramps, fatigue, and dehydration. Supplementing with electrolyte tablets or adding electrolyte-rich foods to your diet (pickles, olives, salted nuts, pretzels, dairy) can help maintain proper fluid balance and support muscle function during training and racing.

Incorporating these supplements into your marathon training regimen should be done judiciously and under the guidance of a sports dietitian to ensure safety and effectiveness.


Mastering marathon training requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses physical conditioning, mental preparedness, and nutritional optimization. As a sports dietitian, I emphasize the importance of trialing different nutrition strategies, training your stomach, and incorporating supplements wisely to support your training goals and maximize performance on race day. By prioritizing proper nutrition alongside your training regimen, you'll be well-equipped to conquer the challenges of marathon running and cross the finish line with strength, speed, and satisfaction.

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