Nutrition Nutrition tips for going the distance

Nutrition tips for going the distance


Mountain Equipment co-op event Chris Chapman

By Ted Simpson
As long-distance runner Chris Chapman prepares to compete in this year’s Boston Marathon, here are some of his tried-and-true nutrition advice for fuelling up for a marathon, which he shared with runners during The Secret Art of Carb Loading event held at Ottawa’s Mountain Equipment Co-Op.

Loading Up

Three days before your race, begin carb loading. Chris recommends consuming between eight and 12 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per day. Are you new to carb loading? Stick with eight grams per kilogram, especially if you are a lighter person. Try and eat frequently and consistently at regular times throughout your day. Focus on unprocessed carbohydrates including white rice, honey and dried fruit and avoided more processed ones such as bread, bagels and pasta. Chris finds that he consumes about 40 per cent of his carbs through sports beverages. If you are looking for a low-sodium alternative, Chris recommends mixing half-and-half water and orange juice, then adding a pinch of salt and sugar or honey to taste. For those going gluten free, rice and rice flour products will satisfy your carbohydrate needs. As an alternative, try sweet potatoes for added nutrition and remember that dates are packed with carbs—a handful of dates contains about 75 grams of carbohydrate.

Race Day Nutrition

Wake up four hours prior to race time and begin drinking small amounts of water and Gatorade. Keep in mind you’ll need to stop your fluid intake one hour before race time. Eat a breakfast of simple, familiar food as nerves can be doing a number on your stomach. Then 15 minutes before the race eat a gel washed down with a mouthful of water.

Although you can get the nutrients you need during a race from electrolyte sports beverages, Chris recommends bring gels for any run over 20 kilometres. Gels make it easier to control your intake as you can easily spill a cup and miss out on the nutrients needed to finish. And don’t forget to have a method to carry you gels during the race, Chris uses the draw string of his shorts to keep them secure. Stay hydrated during the race by drinking a little on a frequent basis.

You need to rehydrate within 20 minutes of running across the finish line, proper hydrating with a electrolyte sports beverage is key. A little protein during this time frame will go a long way towards muscle recovery.

Not having a fuelling plan is a big ‘Oops’ when getting ready for race day—what else should you be prepared for?


  1. Hi,
    I am a holistic nutritionist and I think that white rice is definitely processed and dried food can be processed if lots of sulfates are added to it.
    Some options are brown rice, quinoa, millet; the ancient grains that are packed with nutrients and contain some proteins as well.
    I think when it comes to nutrition you can not only rely on someone who runs only marathons.
    thank you

  2. Hi Maral,
    The problem with foods like brown rice, whole grains, ancient grains, etc. is that they contain fibre which is not good to eat a lot of before a marathon!! The author was quite correct in recommending processed foods like white rice because while that would not normally be a nutritious training food, it will help keep you out of the porta-potty line up on race day.

  3. Hi Maral,

    Sean is correct. Too much fibre on race day can be brutal. Unfortunately racers need that processed and refined food for fuel and not be running for a bathroom. This article is for runners so your statement about not relying on runners for nutritional advice is completely out of place. This isn’t an article for Joe Burger about how to eat nutritiously….
    Sometimes you’ve got to put that alternative thinking away and use what’s been tried/tested and true.

  4. I agree with Sean and Geo regarding the fibre. Too much fibre can be a big mistake on race day ( or just before) While the whole grains suggested by Maral are much healthier, you won’t be thinking of that when you are waiting for a port a potty on race day and losing out on meeting your race goals.

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