What To Eat Before A Half Marathon

Nutrition is important when running, especially for those who run half marathons. You need to consume enough carbs and protein before you run. 

What To Eat Before A Half Marathon

You may be about to complete a half marathon and are wondering what sort of foods you should fuel up on beforehand.

But it can be tricky to know what you should be eating before a half marathon and leaves many of us confused and unsure how best to fuel our bodies. 

Well, no more! This article will help you decide what to eat before the big run, just keep reading to find out more. 

Carbohydrates And Exercise

When you’re exercising, your body converts carbohydrates into energy first. Then when there are no more carbohydrates available, your body starts to use fat as an alternative source of energy. 

Carbohydrates are stored in muscle tissue while fat is stored in the liver. Fatty acids are then converted to energy by the mitochondria in the cells.

Carbohydrate stores need to be fully stocked up before completing a half marathon so you don’t run out of energy. 

Carbohydrates For Marathons

What To Eat Before A Half Marathon

Eating pasta before running a marathon helps you avoid hitting “the wall” when you’re running a marathon.

Proper carb loading or filling your muscles to brim with glycogen won’t make you faster, but allows you to run your best and, if you race wisely, avoid the wall. 

If you want to build up some speed and power during a race, eating carbs can help. But you mustn’t overdo it — too much carbohydrate intake can cause gastrointestinal problems. 

Avoiding the dreaded wall means eating enough carbs. You’ll want to consume more than 2 g per kilogram of body weight (or about 6 pounds) of carbs per hour during the race. 

Start eating those carbs 3 hours before the race. Runners need to be aware of the importance of eating carbs before a race. Carbs should be consumed within an hour or two before a long run. 

How Much Should You Eat Before A Half Marathon?

You can’t fill your muscle with glycogen from just 1 meal. That’s why you should start carb loading 2 or 3 days before your race.

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for your muscles. Your goal is to get 85 to 95% of your daily calories from carbohydrates.

A 150lb runner needs 600g/day of carbs. You aren’t necessarily eating more calories per day. Your carb intake is higher but your calorie intake remains the same. 

The Week Before Your Run

What To Eat Before A Half Marathon

You should eat more carbs in the week leading up to your run (known as carb loading). You should aim for around 4 grams of carbohydrates for each pound of body weight every day.

Check out our meal examples below.


Porridge oats are a great source of carbohydrates, as well as fruits and berries. A loaded breakfast smoothie is also a great source of carbs in the morning.


A salmon and cream cheese bagel or a tuna salad sandwich for your lunch contain carbs and protein, as well as omega 3 fatty acids.


Pasta is a complex carbohydrate, so it’s a great choice for your evening meal. Even better if you pair it with lots of vegetables, as vegetables contain a lot of fiber. Sweet potatoes are a great source of carbs and vitamins. 

You should incorporate healthy mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks into your diet too, you want to spread your carb-loading over a few days in the lead up to your half marathon.

In The 24 Hours Before The Race

What To Eat Before A Half Marathon

Fruit smoothies provide a quick energy boost. Almond butter adds protein and fats for satiation. Eggs and toast or sweet potatoes and veggies or fruit provide protein and fats for energy.


Oatmeal topped with almond butter is a great breakfast choice. Almond butter contains lots of healthy fats, while oats provide slow-release energy. Peanut butter provides protein and vitamin E. 

Banana and berries on top of this combination are an excellent snack. This combination of foods helps prevent muscle soreness after a workout.


A whole-wheat sandwich paired with protein and fat will provide energy for your muscles. You’ll also get plenty of fiber and nutrients to help you stay strong during your half marathon. 

Add some green veggies to your salad to boost your nutrition further. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants, which fight inflammation.

Lycopene is an antioxidant found in tomatoes. This means that eating tomatoes may help your body absorb iron, which is needed to carry oxygen in the blood.


Salmon is an excellent source of protein. Beans are rich in protein and complex carbohydrates. Chili is rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, and iron. A half marathon requires lots of energy. 

You must be careful about what you eat before running, the foods you fuel up with can make or break your performance.

Just Before The Half Marathon

What To Eat Before A Half Marathon

Start eating small meals every 2 or 3 hours. Don’t eat anything too heavy. Eat only light, digestible foods. Avoid fatty foods, fried foods, and dairy. Avoid salty and high-fiber foods.

Drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Try to avoid drinking too much liquid before races. Drink frequent small amounts. Runners should drink about eight ounces every hour, but the amount depends on the heat of the day.

Some people prefer sports drinks over plain water. Energy gels are also a good idea before the run starts. Energy gels contain mostly simple sugars and are good for a boost before a race. 

However, runners who eat more than four gels per hour during a marathon may experience stomach cramps. 

Tips For Pre-Marathon Eating

Check out our tips below for eating before a marathon before you leave. 

  • Runners should avoid eating large amounts of fiber because it may make them sick.
  • Carbohydrates are necessary for energy during exercise, but over-consuming them can lead to lethargy and other problems.
  • Eat foods you enjoy.
  • You need to stay hydrated in the lead-up to your run.
  • Don’t eat too much before running.
  • Try not to eat junk food just before running. 

Final Thoughts

Fuelling your body correctly before engaging in a half marathon is important and can ultimately decide your performance during the run.

Follow the tips above to craft an effective high-carb diet in the weeks, days, and hours leading up to your half marathon.

Megan Rinzel
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