What I eat the week before and after a half marathon

Racing a half marathon is very different than running a 13+ mile long run on the weekend. When you are running as hard as you can for 13 miles, you are burning through a lot more carbohydrate as fuel.  On a slow, easy long run your body is also relying on a good amount of fat.

So fueling in the days leading up to a race should be slightly different from normal, everyday fueling.

It has taken me a lot of experimenting to determine what works best for me, and I’m still learning.  But generally speaking, I find I feel my best on an every day diet of closer to 40-50% carbohydrate, 25% protein and 25-30% fat.  I’m talked before about increasing protein and fat in my diet, but I want to be clear that the majority of what I take in is still carbs! The definition of high protein or high fat is much higher, up to 30-40% protein and 50% fat or more! That is not an ideal runner’s diet.

However, in the days leading up to the race, my diet shifts to closer to 60 or 70% carbohydrate.  I start incorporating more sandwiches, potatoes, oatmeal, bagels and even an extra dessert or two.  Some examples of meals I had last week pre-race:

  • Turkey sandwich on sourdough bread with avocado and cucumber
  • Scrambled eggs and a bagel for breakfast
  • Stir fry with extra rice for dinner
  • Banana and nut butter, Clif bars and Picky Bars for snacks

Thanks to StrideBox for the complimentary monthly box! I’ve been finding new-to-me running goodies.  My favorite this month were the Picky Bar’s Chai to Catch me flavor- so good!

Race morning for a half or full marathon, I stick to what works for me: half or full bagel with sunflower seed butter and a banana, plus some sort of electrolyte drink about 2- 2.5 hours before the race.

For Sunday’s half, I took one gel around mile 6 but was still feeling full and only got about half way through it.

Post race, I immediately get in some carbs and protein if available.  I snacked on dried fruit and tortilla chips that were handed out at the race.  After getting showered, we went out for brunch and I had a roasted pepper avocado omelet, rye toast, berries and some of my daughter’s bagel.

In the first day or two post race, I am careful to focus on protein and carbs to replenish and repair my body.  On Monday, I tracked my food and hit 127 grams of protein which is a bit higher than normal, but was around 30% of my intake for the day.

My foods included:

  • Breakfast green smoothie with protein, banana and berries + scrambled eggs
  • Tuna hummus roll up + string cheese and tortilla chips + piece of dark chocolate
  • Greek yogurt + a few of my daughter’s animal crackers
  •  Ham, roasted potatoes, broccoli + raw veggies + hummus
  • Banana “ice cream” with whipped cream and sprinkles 🙂

I feel really good this week.  I wasn’t sore the way I was after the NYC half, probably because the downhills there left my quads hurting for a few days.  But I’m being conservative and sticking to the bike for a few more days… until Saturday’s Newport 10k in Jersey City!!

Do you change your eating before and after a race?

What pre-race dinner or breakfast work well for you?

I am linking up with SuzRachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPatty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.


17 thoughts on “What I eat the week before and after a half marathon

  1. I tend to eat mostly the same foods before and after a race, but Ill add in some extra carbs before a race. I tend to still eat pasta before a race or long run. Ive tried changing it up but it seems to still wok well for me!

  2. I worked with a sports dietician in the fall/early winter on tweaking my pre race/run eats. She had really good tips that worked well. At least for my runs since I didn’t get to try it out in a race yet. I found that a sweet potato and almond butter was my perfect pre food.
    Angela @ happy fit mama recently posted..Home Gym Essentials for RunnersMy Profile

    • That’s an awesome combo of complex carbs + a little fat/protein. I was doing something similar but since I have an iron stomach that can handle gluten, I’ve found bread to be easier to travel with!

  3. This is SO helpful because I make the same shift but I love seeing what other athletes eat so I can incorporate some into my diet too! And, I also get the complimentary Stride Box and some of the stuff is SO good! It’s definitely one of the better boxes out there. Great stuff, as usual Laura.
    Allie recently posted..Pressure Is A PrivilegeMy Profile

  4. Perfect timing for this topic, because I was just contemplating my diet for the rest of the week–I have a half on Saturday. While I really need to eat my anti-inflammatory diet to keep my RA symptoms in check, I have big time tummy issues when I run and so I’m going to have to forgo the smoothies and greens for the next couple of days. It’s time to “bulk up” on cereal and carbs. Low residue….
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted..Think You’ll Never Run Boston? 13 Ideas to Help You Cut a Race Course and Make a BQ HappenMy Profile

  5. I love seeing what other runners eat – thanks for sharing! Like you, I tweak my diet to be more carbs and slightly less protein/fat before a race. I’ll have chicken and a baked potato the night before a race and a half of a bagel (full before a marathon) with a bit PB, honey, and a banana for race day breakfast.
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted..How to Pace Your Fastest MarathonMy Profile

  6. This is so helpful to read! I’ve found that in so scared of gaining weight while training that I cut back on my carbs too much and ultimately binge on them. Can you write a post sometime on losing weight while training for a half?

  7. Great article. I got the StrideBox too and loved the PickyBar and Granola.

    I only carb up a few days leading into a long race, as I’m doing now before I run a 10-miler this weekend. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten 25% protein in my life. Maybe I should try it off season and see how it feels.
    dynise recently posted..10 tips for aspiring runnersMy Profile

  8. I try to taper down my complex carbs and insoluble fibers as the week goes and switch to easier to digest things. And always a beer the night before!

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