What to Eat Before Running a Marathon

The last few days before the marathon are critical when it comes to nutrition, so I also consulted certified nutritionist and personal trainer Hank Capasso of The Natural Laws of Nutrition and Training out of North Providence, for advice.

The countdown is on and the anxiety is high. I’m finding it hard to concentrate these last few days before I run the Boston Marathon on Monday. I’ve been tapering, which means cutting way back on mileage. This week I’ve only gone on one three-mile run, followed by a four-mile run I will do today and I’ll run only two miles on Sunday. Then I will (hopefully) be ready for 26.2 miles on Monday.

Two things I’ve been concentrating on this week are diet and sleep. The last few days before the marathon are critical when it comes to nourishment, so I consulted certified nutritionist and personal trainer Hank Capasso of The Natural Laws of Nutrition and Training out of North Providence, for advice.

Capasso told me that I really need to focus on my carbohydrate levels, starting tomorrow. Most people think the real carbo loading comes the Sunday night before the race, but he suggests that Saturday’s meals should be even heftier in carbs than meals eaten the night before. And you really don’t have to gorge to prepare.

“You will be storing carbs for your run on Monday, but you have to remember that you’re not exerting as many calories,” Capasso says. “Your body will store the carbs easier because you aren’t training as much. So you really don’t have to go crazy on Sunday and eat a whole lot more than usual.”

Each meal I eat should have about 40-45 grams of carbohydrates (the amount in two slices of whole-grain bread, two-ounces of dry pasta, one large whole sweet potato, two small bananas or three-fourth cup of cooked rice). Of course, those meals should also be supplemented with protein, fruits and vegetables and dairy. He recommends lean meats like chicken and fish and peanut butter as great protein sources. Capasso makes a great homemade peanut butter, which he sells out of his office. He mixes freshly ground peanuts with protein powder to give you even more of a protein boost. I like the honey walnut version, which I've been eating with oatmeal or an English muffin every morning before breakfast.

For carbohydrates, he suggests items like sweet potatoes and whole-grain sources like rice, pasta and bread because whole grains take longer to digest, and they are easier for your muscles and liver to store as energy that will be later be used while running.

  • Friday, he says I should eat a normal breakfast, and then I’ll eat three more meals at noon, 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., containing 40-45 grams of carbohydrates at each meal.
  • On Saturday, Capasso says to eat six meals containing at least 45 g of carbohydrates at each sitting. And on Sunday, he suggests four meals of 35 g of carbs per sitting.
  • As for race day, Capasso recommends eating fast-acting carbohydrate sources in the morning about three hours before the gun. He suggested two packets on Cream of Wheat or cream of rice cereal. “You want something that can get out of your stomach and into the lower intestines quickly to avoid cramping while you’re running,” he says.

With this advice, I’m ready for my run! I have also purchased a small FuelBelt waistpack, that I’ll wear around my waist. I’ve tested it out and it will neatly hold all of my Gu energy gels without interfering with my run (I have six packets, and I’ll use one every four miles).

In case you are interested in tracking me or any other runners on Monday, you can follow them by bib number on the BAA.org website, or through the AT&T Athlete Alert program, which sends emails or texts when the runner pass the 10K, Halfway, 30K and finish line. My bib number is #25837.

Here's how you do it:

  • TEXT – Simply text the word RUNNER to 345678 using your US mobile phone. You will then receive an sms text response with instructions on how to submit a runner’s bib number. (You will be opted in to receive 4 messages during the race. Message and data rates may apply. Text STOP to cancel, Text HELP for help. This program is available on the following carriers: AT&T, Boost, Nextel, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, and Verizon Wireless.)
  • EMAIL – Continue to the registration page for the AT&T Athlete Alert on the race website. Sign-up using your mobile phone number for SMS text message updates, or by entering an email address for email updates. Click here to sign up now.

Here’s hoping my first Boston Marathon goes well!

Learn more about Capasso’s personal training and nutritionist services: The Natural Laws of Nutrition and Training, 1527 Smith St., North Providence, 996-5583, thelawsofnutrition.com.



Boston Marathon Training Currently in Session

Five Great Running Routes in Rhode Island

The Best Running and Exercise App Ever Invented

Training for the Boston Marathon on Heartbreak Hill