Food Is Fuel: Eat Like A Marathon Runner



Runners at a Marathon

It's a great time of year for runners! The New York City Marathon is just around the corner and proper nutrition and hydration can make or break your success in this 26.2 mile endeavor. Here are some tips and techniques to help fuel performance.

Getting Started

Runners' success relies on smart sports nutrition in conjunction with a well-established running program.


Regular meals and snacks are vital to optimal performance. While training, eat regularly throughout the day; never go more than three to four hours without eating. Before a workout (including race day) eat a light, easily digestible breakfast that's high in healthy carbs for energy. Oatmeal and a banana or a bagel with a light spread of peanut butter — and don’t forget the fluids!

During the race

During the race, runners should opt for some quick fluids and other grab-n-go options to help keep energy levels high. Choices include sports drinks and other carbohydrate-rich gels and chews. Runners are strongly encouraged to try these foods out while training to gauge tolerance – no new foods on race day!


Every workout session (yup, race day too) needs to wrap up with a combination of carbohydrates and protein to replenish energy stores and promote muscle growth. Replenishing fluid and electrolytes are also a must. Chocolate milk, Greek yogurt with granola, or a simple turkey sandwich are all powerful recovery foods.

Runner-Friendly Foods

Runners rely on many foods to help fuel their performance. Fuel up on foods stocked with nutrients such as B-vitamins, iron, zinc, healthy fats and inflammation-fighting foods.

Healthy carbs

Whole grain cereals, breads and pastas, plus fruits, veggies and dairy provide energy producing carbohydrates, plus B-vitamins, zinc and even some iron.

High quality protein

Red meat, fish, poultry and eggs as well as plant-based options like quinoa, beans and soy are packed with protein to get tired muscles back in action.

Omega-3 fats

Fatty fish like salmon as well as flax seed and walnuts are filled with heart-healthy fats that help promote circulation and keep skin and nerves healthy.

Antioxidant-rich fruits & veg

Berries, tomatoes, grapes, broccoli and beets are just a few of the foods filled with cell-protecting photochemicals that help fight inflammation.

Have a great race!

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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