Marathon food and fuel

Formula 1 cars require the perfect mix of fuel to perform at their best, marathon runners are no different - topping up on fuel as they go.

Runners’ energy dense fat stores don’t burn fast enough during exercise, which is why they have to rely on burning carbohydrates. However, the body’s carbohydrate stores are small and easily run out, so runners need to top up during exercise.

The following explanations outline how to supply your muscles with the perfect balance of fuel meet your goals.

Taking on carbohydrates during training

For steady state exercise lasting more than than 60 minutes, performance will be improved by consuming carbohydrates.

For exercise under 60 minutes, consuming carbohydrate won’t affect performance. However, dietitians recommend consuming carbohydrates in some sessions in order to practice your race day nutrition plan and improve carbohydrate tolerance.

Carbohydrate quantity

This is not a one-size-fits-all situation. For optimal performance you need to have a personalised plan.  Your plan is based upon your physical characteristics, tolerance, goals, and event, but should also take into account personalised elements including:

  • How many carbs needed per hour.
  • At what points during exercise carbs are consumed.
  • In what form carbs are taken.
  • Best use of course aid stations.
  • What carbs you should carry.

Best time to have carbs

Carbohydrates are fatigue prevention, not a cure. Have your first dose after 30-60 minutes. The exact timing of your first and subsequent doses depends on your nutrition and race plan.

Carbohydrate options

The best way to get carbohydrates while training is through sports drinks (link) and gels. There are a variety of products available, so it pays to trial different brands and flavours to find one that suits. Some people like to mix up the flavours as one taste can get boring. Take into account the carbohydrate per cent of the product so you can figure out how much you need and when to take them.

Too much of one type of carbohydrate, for example glucose/fructose, can cause stomach upsets so it pays to consult a dietitian to find the best ratio.

Get a personalised plan with Trailblazer Nutrition

One visit to is all it takes to get a customised nutrition plan to achieve peak performance. Dietitian Tom Shand develops a day-to-day nutrition plan personalised to your individual needs.

Trialling new things on race day can be disastrous so it is best to get your nutrition plan early. Click here to see how Trailblazer works.