Essential Foods for Marathon Season Nutrition


Your nutrition plays as big a role as your training schedule when you are preparing for a marathon or half marathon. Here is the sports nutrition guidance you need to endure your season.

  1. Protein

You know protein is essential for building muscle, but it’s not enough to just consume protein rich foods. Researchers confirmed this in a study published in April (2014) in the Journal of Applied Physiology, which found that a soy-dairy protein blend is more effective for transporting protein into the muscle than from whey alone.

Look for protein powders like this Super High Protein Powder from Mlo, which offers a combination of milk, soy, whey and egg protein). While there has been a lot of attention given to timing of pre and post workout meals (and protein intake in particular), recent research confirms that there isn’t one approach that is best. Rather, researchers emphasize the need to consume adequate protein either before or after rigorous exercise to enhance muscle repair and building.

  1. Hydration

Remaining hydrated during rigorous exercise remains a top priority. Today, many forms of powders, gels, tablets and drinks exist for electrolyte replacement.  I highly recommend trying these drinks during training to find the one that works best for you and helps you perform at your peak.

Please note that many contain sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, xylitol, which may cause bloating, diarrhea and have a “laxative effect”.  If you are sensitive to sugar alcohols then you want to ensure that the electrolyte replacement you select doesn’t contain them.  The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends three to eight ounces of an electrolyte replenishing drink every 15-20 minutes when exercising for more than 60 minutes and warns that one should not consume more than one quart per hour during rigorous exercise. Avoid dehydration by also monitoring your fluid intake before and after exercise.

  1. Omega fats & nuts

You may have heard that consuming omega fats is good for your heart, but did you know that they may play a role in reducing inflammation and decreasing muscle soreness? Find omega fats in fish, as well as vegetable oils, walnuts and ground flaxseed. While your body prefers food more than supplements you can also take an omega supplement. If you are choosing a fish oil supplement, look for one that is made from small fish that are likely to be lower in mercury. There is also some recent research that shows that watermelon juice may aid in reducing muscle soreness as well.

  1. Carbs

Endurance training and marathons require a diet with adequate carbs. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), a diet rich in carbohydrates can enhance performance and provide the energy needed to endure higher intensity races. They also recommend around five grams of carbohydrates per pound (of body weight) when exercise will exceed four to five hours. Begin and end your marathon day with carbohydrate rich foods and rely on sports drinks during exercise to not only rehydrate, but to replenish your carbohydrate stores as well.

Here are some suggestions of well-balanced meals and snacks to consume on training days:


  • Greek Yogurt topped with low-fat granola or cereal and fresh fruit
  • Whole grain waffle with natural peanut butter and sliced banana
  • Whole wheat wrap with scrambled eggs and sliced avocado
  • Smoothie with non-fat, plain Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • Greek pasta salad with cooked pasta combined with tuna, black olives, cucumber, tomato, feta cheese and salad dressing
  • Lean hamburger on whole wheat bun with sliced avocado or reduced fat cheese, tomato and lettuce
  • Southwestern Grilled chicken wrap with grilled chicken, whole wheat wrap, black beans, avocado and lettuce


For more ideas, check out our round up of post workout snacks!


About Guiding Stars Licensing Co.

Since 2006, Guiding Stars has been leading the way in helping consumers make nutritious food choices and has received a U.S. Patent for the Guiding Stars nutrition rating algorithm. The Guiding Stars nutrition guidance program is a simple, easy-to-understand tool for making good nutrition choices and is designed to make a positive and lasting impact on public health. Guiding Stars is currently found in more than 1,800 supermarkets including Hannaford, Food Lion, Sweetbay, Homeland, Marsh, as well as Loblaw’s Supermarkets in Ontario and Quebec. Guiding Stars has also expanded into public schools, colleges and hospitals and appears on the Shopper mobile iPhone application. Additional information can be found at

About The Author

Allison Stowell, MS, RD, CDN joined the Guiding Stars team to help people in a number of sectors (grocery, hospitals, schools and universities) to understand how to use the Guiding Stars nutrition guidance program to make healthier food choices. She regularly offers great advice to enable individuals to make positive, sustainable changes in their eat