nutrition tips for marathon training

marathon-nutrition-tips meal planwakame and quinoa salad

nutrition tips for marathon training

That's right, marathon-training season is upon us.  While the right shoes, fancy pants, a committed running partner and clinic or training plan are key to a successful run we don't often hear people ask ‘So, what are you eating?” Being a self-professed ‘Nutrition Nerd’, Jacqueline asked Georgia Morley (lululemon founder Chip Wilson’s chef and holistic nutrition super star) for some expert advice.


Training for a marathon means essentially running a bunch of mini-marathons. You almost need to eat like it’s race day throughout your training. The key to building and maintaining endurance is carbs.  And don’t be mistaken not all carbohydrates are created equal.


I know a lot of people have some “carb” fear. It’s important fuel your body with COMPLEX carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole sprouted grains ( this doesn’t mean processed wheat), rye breads, kamut, amaranth, quinoa and starchy veggies likes squash or yams.   So fuel up with at least 300 calories of complex carbs around two hours before a training session.

plan ahead

Two hours ahead may seem like a lot of planning but it’s critical. If you eat 20 minutes before your run, not only will your body be working so hard to digest the meal, you will get zapped fast, the energy boosting carbs won’t have had time to take effect and the stitch in your side will take you outta the game.  Gotta have game.
marathon-nutrition-tips-meal plankamut and porcetta salad with yams and roast new potatoes

carb highs

To maintain that carb high, you need to get the right balance of carbs with nutrient rich vegetables and fruit and lean proteins; grilled chicken, legumes, lean beef, lamb or pork.  If you can, combine your proteins with veggies and leave your carbs all to themselves, I mean minus their friends the proteins.  That’s right people, eat a giant heaping bowl of whole grain pasta with fresh tomatoes, pine nuts and basil all by itself and then go back for seconds.


AFTER your training session, eat about 400 calories of lean meat and veggies, then eat again 4 hours later -  perhaps an egg white frittata with wild mushrooms ( a partial protein don’t cha know) , a smattering of soft goat cheese and a grinding of black pepper.  It’s just that easy.

sports drinks and gels

Speaking of easy, I’m really not a fan of high-tech sports drinks and carb/electrolyte gels (or putting anything synthetic or processed in your body). That said, after mile marker 10 on your run, it’s hard to whip out a frittata and indulge whilst running like the wind.  So, gel it up people, your body will need that fuel, even if it is processed and a weak supplement for whole foods.

24 hours to go

The night before your marathon go carb crazy with a dinner of about 1000 calories composed of carbs.  So good, right?! And the WATER – drink so much water you could float through the finish line.  This is about hydration and keeping your muscles from going into shock.  Drink at least 2 litres of water prior to training and on race day, then drink periodically throughout your race at the appropriate times (I am parched just thinking about it). Alternating water with Coconut Water (a.k.a. nature’s Gatorade) will really amp up your electrolytes as well.
marathon-nutrition-tips- recipe planhalibut in orange, miso and ginger

the full meal deal: training menu


  • Protein smoothie : 4 egg whites, berries, milk or milk alternative, 1 scoop spirulina, crushed ice)
  • Brown rice hot cereal : 2 cups cooked brown rice, a few raisins, 1 cup milk or milk alternative, slivered blanched almonds, 2 table spoons flax meal – combine all ingredients in a pot and simmer, top with milk or milk alternative and about 1 table spoon maple syrup  - maple syrup does not spike your GI like ALL other sweeteners do
  • Coffee if ya have too, but your run will sustain much better if you do decaf
  • Water

* Stay away from juices – juice is just a candy bar in disguise


  • Whole chicken breast marinated with grainy mustard, lemon and olive oil:  marinade chicken for 1 hour (I like to do 6 at a time so I have some for the week ahead).  Grill on barbecue or bake at 400 for 30 minutes.  Serve with a fresh salad of green veggies with hemp seed, flax and apple cider vinegar drizzled over top.  Perhaps an apple to stave off the sweet tooth, and a cup of roibois tea.
  • Water

2pm, 4pm

  • Blanched or roasted almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, berries, apples, a little more brown rice cereal from the morning, a handful of unsweetened organic chocolate chips, hommous with brown rice crackers, a big lettuce leaf filled with sprouts, almond butter and apple
  • Water

6pm at the latest

  • Brown rice pasta with arugula, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and lemon broth – cook the pasta as directed, then drain and set aside.  On a medium high heat toss about 1 tablespoon grape seed oil into a pan and then the tomatoes, arugula, zest and juice of one lemon, a splash of white wine or veggie broth if desired, the pasta and finally the goat cheese, some fleur de sel and black pepper.
  • Water and one glass of wine if you’re feeling fancy.  That’s ONE glass of wine.



  • 4 squares of dark chocolate, another apple, or a few carrots ( I know it seems strange but it will give you the sugar hit your looking for and in about 3 minutes after eating them, you won’t feel like you want anything else sweet – although carrots do metabolize just like a marshmallow - sneaky), a bowl of yogurt sprinkled with hemp seeds, nuts and fresh berries a little maple syrup if you need it....or make a quinoa pudding with chocolate, quinoa, and a little milk or milk alternative – serve warm
  • Water

As Georgia says, planning is critical. The marathons will be upon us in no time, so let's spend time now to get our bodies ready for it.

georgia morley


Georgia Morley is a veteran chef specializing in holistic nutrition and local foods. She works in Vancouver as a private chef and is currently mid-way thru her Anusara Instructor training (as if she wasn’t magic enough).




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As a student on my way to becoming a Registered Dietitian, I just wanted to point out there are a couple pieces of advice here that may not be entirely accurate.

The human body cannot readily digest raw egg whites, like in smoothies. The avidin (a glycoprotein) in egg whites prevents your body from easily digesting the proteins, and it can create a Biotin deficiency. Additionally there’s the risk of salmonella with raw egg whites, particularly if you’re buying unpasteurized.

Also, while 100% pure maple syrup does not have a high glycemic index, neither do 100% pure floral honey and agave — it’s not the only sweetener with a low GI. Also, if you’re concerned about glycemic index, things like brown rice and pastas made from brown rice flour actually have a much higher glycemic index than regular whole wheat pasta. I too, personally, favor the tastes of sprouted wheat, but there’s nothing wrong with 100% whole wheat.

I appreciate the posts on nutrition (LOVE it actually!) but just wanted to share these thoughts/ concerns I had. I know lululemon is a community about feedback, so I hope it’s well received!

Comment by Lindsey — July 5, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

Thanks for the feedback – I LOVE FEEDBACK!!

Yes the biotin deficiency can be an issue if used for long term, however, for short term training goals it is the purest form of protein that is not whey or soya isolate grossness ( essentially it’s my remedy for the packaged Isogenix crap.) I agree, Lindsey, it’s a great point about the egg whites and salmonella. I use pasteurized, organic egg whites in the carton from Whole Foods and if your concerned about the biotin, you can substitute brown rice protein, available at most health food stores.

I am curious about your comment on agave and floral honey – both are heat processed, unlike maple syrup
and while both honey and agave are ‘natural’ sweeteners they still increase GI more than maple syrup ( Staying Healthy with Nutrition – Elson Haas MD.)

Whole wheat pasta – I am a huge advocate for the demise of ALL flour based products ( wheat or white), unless sprouted. Wheat actually has inflammatory properties due to the processing and inflames the tissue around the bones and heart and completely gums up your intestine. It also causes lethargy in most people (I need a nap just thinking about it). My preference, based on those facts and others, is brown rice ANYTHING, regardless of the slightly higher glycemic index.

Totally awesome comments Lindsey! Thanks for check’n in, it takes a community to fuel the Earth’s people, and well!

Comment by Georgia morley — July 5, 2011 @ 4:53 pm

Wow, great info and I really appreciate the full list. It is nice to read about what is good for you, how your body processes and when and what to eat. This certainly helps me out a ton. I’m not signed up for marathons right now, but this is very helpful for even someone like me who just enjoys running and wants to get better at it.

Comment by Suzanne Williams — July 5, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

Couldn’t agree more – saw the link for this article and was disappointed to see that lululemon hadn’t thought to consult an RD working in sports nutrition for their expertise.

Please consider seeking the expertise of a Registered Dietitian, which is a licensed, regulated and protected title, before you publish another article on nutrition. I would agree that the lululemon community is about feedback, and also believe that your readers deserve to hear from healthcare professionals in order to plan their training.

(current dietetic intern)

Comment by Megan — July 5, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

Great article with some really fabulous tips! Thanks for posting this.

Comment by Suzanne — July 5, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

I would argue against the absolute need to consult an RD. There are a lot of doctors and dieticians out there that at no fault of their own were taught bad information and continue to spread that information. With the internet, a person with some analytical skills and trial and error in their training can find enough information to obtain optimum performance. For an alternative in endurance nutrition, check out The Paleo Diet for Athletes co-written by Joe Friel, a decorated USA Triathlon coach. Also, you can download a free PDF CrossFit Journal article titled “Race Day Fueling” that helps lay out some simple calculations to use during raceday fueling. For some real nerdy facts on this stuff google Mat Lalonde and listen to him recite the research.

And finally, just because something is organic, doesn’t make it healthy. Organic beef, can just mean that a cow was fed organic corn (rather than grass), which still makes it sick. And please stop throwing away the yokes in your eggs, that’s where the nutrition is.

Comment by Michael — July 5, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

While the article is informative, I don’t find some of the advice completely appropriate for athletes training for a marathon.

There is a significant difference between registered dietitians and sports nutritionists.

To specialize in the field, graduate/post graduate degrees in sports nutrition are a must (above what is offered by Dietitians of Canada!). I have yet to meet an RD who is effectively working with athletes unless he/she has additional education in exercise physiology and/or sports nutrition.

I agree with Megan, but think you need to look for a sports nutritionist who is experienced working with athletes of various ability levels.


Comment by Nora — July 5, 2011 @ 10:07 pm

Very interesting infos! It has to be Grade B Maple Syrup, right?

Comment by Sen — July 5, 2011 @ 10:48 pm

Thanks everyone. Seems there are a lot of opinions. I believe Lululemon made a great, well educated choice in choosing a holistic nutritionist to direct this article (I happen to believe my credentials from CSNN are well deserved);)

The above article is my take on training and with much positive experience in the outcome.

Yes, there are many different diets and types of nutritionists. I am not an advocate for the Canadian Dietitians of Canada, hence there are some opposing views. I promote holistic nutrition and the benefits there of.

Nora: egg yolks are good when eaten on a limited basis. For instance, I eat yolks probably 2 times a week. This article is a BROAD spectrum level column of advice based on the general public and their training levels. I always recommend a diet rich in protein and low in fat (egg yolks) on a broad level.

Make sure your ORGANIC, antibiotic free, free range meat is USDA approved and the impact on the animal, your body and the environment will be substantial.

Comment by Georgia morley — July 6, 2011 @ 8:47 am

Sen: Grade a maple syrup – yes please!!!! love, love, love it!!

Comment by Georgia morley — July 6, 2011 @ 8:56 am

“Stay away from juices – juice is just a candy bar in disguise.” I would say “more education required*” here – juice is fine, as long as you choose wisely. I make my own juices with greens (romaine, kale, cucumber, spinach, etc.) and they are incredibly low in sugar and part of my pre- & post- fuel as a fitness instructor.

Comment by erin @ WELL in L.A. — July 6, 2011 @ 10:48 am

Some good points, but being an RD who is specialized, there are other factors that were not mentioned in this article and before taking all this information seriously I would recommend looking further.

Also, Michael, you would be surprised how much stuff on Internet is inaccurate or how people don’t know how to use the information. You’re pretty much saying that anyone can get on Internet and be a doctor, or lawyer, or anything at that matter.

Comment by Jen — July 6, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

Great point, Erin. While fruit juices made of pasteurized apple, orange, tropical fruits are really high in sugar, Green juice is a fabulous choice!
Yay kale, apple, celery and cucumber-fresh pressed!!

Comment by Gerorgia Morley — July 6, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

What do you mean when you say that a carrot metabolizes just like a marshmellow?

Comment by Anna — July 6, 2011 @ 6:34 pm

this is the a post i’ve been looking for for ages. thanks

Comment by neen — July 6, 2011 @ 11:03 pm

Thanks for this post, there is some really helpful information here. I have to disagree about the juices though. I drink fresh pressed juice before my runs because I get the nutrients without my body having to deal with digesting anything. I find them to be the perfect fuel, and as long as you use mostly veggies (kale, cucumber, etc) it’s not so much like a candy bar. It is about smart juicing.

I do have a question. I have a GI illness and my body can’t digest complex carbs (or anything high in fiber). What would you suggest I do? Are simple carbs OK in my case? Thanks!

Comment by Dori — July 7, 2011 @ 5:44 am

Wow. This is an interesting string and indicative of why there is so much confusion about what to eat to achieve peak performance (paleo, vegetarian, vegan, dairy, non-dairy, soy, no-soy, whole wheat, no whole wheat, juice, no-juice). I think everyone’s heart is in the right place, but I don’t expect a concensus to emerge. Maybe everyone is “right?” At any rate, two good things emerge from these discussions: 1. It’s great people (at least the readers here) are thinking about what we eat, and 2. we’re all lucky to have choices….

Comment by kent — July 7, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

Anna: the marshmallow comment is with regards to the sugar content in carrots. Carrots have high sugar content ( and nutrient value of coarse, unlike a marshie). the misconception is that folks think carrots and say hommus is a good snack choice, but it’s better to chose say cucumber, cauliflower ( super high in calcium)instead, and save the carrots for a sweet treat. Odd, right? It might be strange but it’s all too true.

Dori: you’re right about the juices and I posted some feedback regarding your comment about two comments before yours. I completely agree with you. I should have been more clear.

With regards to your GI illness ( IBS, Chrones etc), yes it is unfortunate but you need to stay away from complex carbs, too much fiber and challenging to digest. if possible you could eat potatoes and basmati rice instead, but what will really help is if you eat your carbs all by themselves, as they digest at a different rate than say protein. Your body will have an easier time digesting them if there is nothing else to focus on digesting at the same time. Also, tapioca starch, potato starch, coconut flour and white rice flour should be okay for you.
Hope this helps.

Kent: beautiful and absolutely correct!!

Comment by Georgia morley — July 7, 2011 @ 4:11 pm

Fantastic Blog post! Don’t forget oatmeal as an awesome energy packed starch!!

Comment by The Get In Shape Girl — July 13, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

Truly smart eaters,we all are….keep it up! lets all stay healthy and keep eating sensibly…remember, as yogis and yoginis, our awareness….NAMASTE!

Comment by SEN — July 17, 2011 @ 5:11 am

I love your receipes. Do you have a website or recommendations on where to find more combinations of meals like the ones you posted for this article?

Comment by kp — August 28, 2011 @ 7:11 pm

Thanks this is so awesome! My next race is 14 miles and this is a good reminder to stick to the Healthy carbs, not the junky ones. Wish I had a training menu like this for each day of the week :)

Comment by Torey — October 16, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

Great article! I love seeing posts about nutrition when it comes to running. Check out my blog post about what drinks are best for runners!

Hope you enjoy!

Comment by Katie Cordova — December 22, 2011 @ 7:14 am

Actually, carrots don’t metabolize like a marshmallow because of the fiber in the vegetable. There may be a high sugar content in carrots, but like other vegetables with high sugar content, they metabolize differently than processed sugar products. Not everyone needs to avoid carrots, in fact, they are a good snack for most people unless there is a strong blood sugar dysregulation issue.

Comment by Alia — August 19, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

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