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    Fuel like a champion: Nutrition for marathoners

    on February 22, 2024

    With the spring marathon season approaching, sports nutritionist, podcast host and ultra-running athlete Mikki Williden (PhD) shares her essential tips to fuelling for a marathon in the first of our two-part series.

    Some nutrition advice never changes when it comes to racing an event like the London Marathon.


    One of the golden rules is don’t try something new on race morning. I made this fatal mistake in the 2010 Christchurch Marathon, leading to a DNF at 40km because my digestive tract had other ideas. That confirmed for me that dried apricots were not a goer for me pre-race. A mistake that, as a registered nutritionist, I probably shouldn’t have made, but we all live and learn!

    From a fuelling perspective, always look to practice race nutrition three-four times in a key training session before the big event, so you feel you are comfortable with your approach.

     In the countdown to a race, don't make meals too big. On the day before a race, you might be better with a smaller dinner earlier in the day (5pm), and then a snack at 8pm. Good snack options are protein powder mixed in yoghurt with a few berries, or a banana and peanut butter prior to bed, so you don't feel too loaded down with food.


    Carbohydrate loading

    There isn’t too much you need to change with regards to carbohydrate loading. Remember, by tapering, you will be carb loading naturally and restocking your glycogen stores ready for race day.

    However, if you follow a low carbohydrate approach, then adding in another 100gm-150gm in the three days leading up will ensure your glycogen stores are at full capacity. Think: A couple of pieces of fruit, 250g sweet potato or potato, 1 cup cooked white rice.



    Going into an event dehydrated will negatively impact performance outcomes so you want to be hydrated.  

    Ensure you are drinking adequate amounts of water regularly across the day - and not backloading or front loading it – focusing on the important electrolyte sodium.

    Ideally, avoid full-sugared electrolyte drinks as these aren’t really necessary.


    Protein and fats

    There’s no need to change things much here, however some people feel anxious in lead up to race and an unsettled stomach is common.

    Reducing fat intake a little and cutting down vegetables in the two-three days prior can help with overall gut-related issues.

    Additional fibre at this time isn't necessary and may interfere with your digestion – so halve your normal intake of vegetables.


    Evening meals the night before a race are very individual. What has worked well for you in the past? Psychologically, it can be good to keep it familiar. Some dinner favourites might be

    • salmon, rice, broccoli,
    • chicken, rice, carrots, green beans
    • sweet potato with salmon mixed with mayo and a hardboiled egg or two
    • Gluten-free toast with avocado and salmon or scrambled eggs


    Race-day breakfast

    Again, this is very individual. Some runners have nothing except coffee and cream, others have full-on breakfast. Most are in the middle.

    You don’t need a ton of food pre-race, only enough to restock liver glycogen which will have depleted overnight.

    Prior to one of my race wins, I had five white bread buns with jam, a spirulina drink and a banana. I probably wouldn’t do that now, but looking back, it obviously didn’t do any damage on the day other than a little panic about an hour before when I really needed the bathroom!

    Good breakfast suggestions, two hours before the race are:

    • Protein shake with banana and peanut butter
    • Oats + protein powder + almond milk + peanut butter
    • Gluten-free toast with 2 hardboiled eggs



    Including a high-anthocyanin supplement such as CurraNZ that supports blood flow, fuelling and recovery can support your performance goals, whether you’re a recreational athlete or an elite.

    Start loading on two capsules of CurraNZ, 7-14 days before race day, then dose two hours before the start of the event. CurraNZ is gentle on the gut and doesn’t contain fibre, so can be easily incorporated into your race-day protocol.