Mike Trees Guide To Marathon Race Day Food

Written by: Mike Trees

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Time to read 3 min

Let’s talk marathon race day food.

What to eat before a marathon and equally as important, what not to eat before you race a marathon.

Marathon Race Day Breakfast

The key is to practice what you plan to have before long training runs or sessions. Trial and error – get it wrong in training to get it right on race day. Try different options to see what works best for you and sits well in your stomach. Everyone has different preferences, no single best option for everyone.


Athletes should have the last large meal 3 to 5 hours before the competition. This meal (usually breakfast) is important after an overnight fast when liver glycogen is low. In the 3 to 5 hours before exercise, some carbohydrates may be incorporated into muscle glycogen, but the majority will be stored as liver glycogen. Carbohydrate intake in the last hour before competition will not affect muscle glycogen but still influences liver glycogen and increases the delivery of carbohydrates to the muscle during exercise.


Essentially, carbohydrates in your race morning breakfast are very important.

Place the focus on high carbohydrates with lower ratios of protein, fats and fibre – this will supply your body with the energy it requires while reducing chances of GI issues (fibre, fat and protein take longer to digest so sit in your stomach for greater periods.) Ingestion of a carbohydrate-rich meal (140g to 330g CHO) 3 to 5 hours before exercise improves exercise performance.


Meal Ideas

  • 1 large bowl of porridge (100g oats) with semi-skimmed milk (200ml), topped with Nutella (30g) one banana, one glass (250 ml) of orange juice = 150g CHO.
  • 4 x slices of white bread with 30g honey, 500ml Maurten 320 = 180g CHO.
  • 2 x white bagels with 30g strawberry jam, 1 x 500ml lucozade sport, 1 x Maurten Solid bar = 181g CHO.

In practice:

Becky Briggs, who ran 2:29:04 at the Manchester Marathon in 2022 ate the following pre-race breakfast.

6am (9am race start)
2 x White Bagels with strawberry jam and 500ml "Maurten 320" (a popular sport drink mix) = 184g CHO.


It might seem like a lot, but your body needs the correct amount of fuel to perform at an optimum level.

Fried egg on toast

Foods To Avoid Eating Before A Marathon

Most of the information we see on marathon food is focused on what we should eat before training and racing, however here are a few tips on foods that may be useful for you to avoid.


1. High fibre foods:
We need fibre in our diet, but pre-run and pre-race can cause problems. Stomach issues like cramps, bloating and diarrhea are not part of anyone’s race plan! The reason these foods cause issues is because they take so long to digest. Pre-race you want to be having something that is going to be easy to digest

2. Dairy:
Not everyone has problems with dairy. But some people find they have issues with it around exercise.
It is best to avoid this pre-race, and save the milk and ice cream treats for after the racing is done!

3. Sugary drinks:
Sugary drinks will cause spikes and troughs in your blood sugar which you don’t want before a race. It is much better to use electrolytes to stay hydrated before a race.

4. Fried foods:
Because these foods are generally high in unhealthy fats, they will take a long time to digest and will leave you feeling sluggish!
Avoid pre-race

5. Spicy foods:
The same goes for spicy food, best to be avoided to avoid a stomach upset!

6. Protein bars:
Having too much protein pre-run could sacrifice your intake of essential carbohydrates, which means you could be missing out on this vital energy source.

Breakfast eggs and toast

Mike Trees

Mike Trees was a professional athlete for over 20 years, winning multiple international titles. He now works as a performance consultant, offering his training and physiology expertise to numerous Olympians and World Champions. He has a comprehensive knowledge of racing, training and coaching. 


He is happy to advise athletes of all ages and abilities, whether you are looking to improve a personal best time or get to the Olympics, Mike can help you meet and exceed your goals and perform at your peak.

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