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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March 2005, 09:57 GMT
The recipe for marathon success
Marathon energy levels

When you're training for a marathon it's crucial to keep fuelling up with the right kinds of food and drink.

You'll perform better if your diet includes the right type of food in the right amounts and at the right time.

We asked Karen Reid, a nutritionist at the English Institute of Sport, for some top food tips as the countdown to race day gets underway.


In the final few days before the race you should be building up reserves of muscle carbohydrates, known as glycogen. This is the most important fuel for endurance athletes.

Typically, an athlete will need 10gms of carbohydrate per kilogram of body mass to ensure good glycogen stores. For example, a runner weighing 70kg needs 700gms of carbs.

It may be difficult to get all of this from potatoes, bread, pasta and cereals.

More compact sources of carbohydrate - which you can get from sugary foods such as jelly sweets, jaffa cakes and soft drinks - are a useful addition at this time.


Eat a good, hi-carb breakfast three hours before the race. You could try pancakes with syrup, sugar or jam. Or maybe a big bowl of cereal with milk and toast.

Breakfast cereal
About one hour before the race fuel up with compact carbohydrates in the form of jelly babies, wine gums or a jam sandwich.

If you're too nervous to eat, try drinking some diluted squash or a soft drink or sports drink.

Remember, it's important to start the race well-hydrated, so drink around 500ml of water before you start.

During the race you'll need to keep topping up on salts and electrolytes. You can do this by swigging sports drinks which contain electrolytes and carbohydrates.

Electrolytes help restore salt lost through sweating and helps the body absorb and retain fluid.


You may feel light-headed after crossing the line. This could be the result of low blood sugar level, so some rapidly absorbed carbohydrate in the form of a sports drink is useful.

Keep taking on fluids to replace electrolytes and carbohydrates.

Carbs, protein and antioxidants are key

Help your aching muscles recover by taking on board protein and carbohydrates. You can do this by eating a snack such as ham, egg or tuna sandwich.

Each provides a combination of essential nutrients such as carbohydrate, protein and electrolytes which will encourage repair and regeneration of damaged muscle fibres.

Also, after strenuous exercise the body's immune system is suppressed, resulting in an increased risk of illness. That's why it's important to rehydrate and "feed" the immune system quickly.

Fruit, such as Satsumas or grapes provide protective antioxidants and vitamin C, which will help recovery and protect against the damaging effects of your 26-mile slog.


Hungry for success? Find out what's on our marathon menu and tuck in!


  • Ready-made American-style pancakes (2 large), topped with honey or maple syrup
  • Low fat yoghurt and fruit salad

    Energy Snacks
    Fruit and Honey wraps

  • 1 soft flour tortilla
  • 0% fat fromage frais or Greek yoghurt
  • Grated apple, pear or seedless grapes
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • Sprinkle of raisins
  • Clear blended honey

    First spread the wrap with a little honey and then the fromage frais or yoghurt. Top with grated apple, pear or seedless grapes, banana slices and raisins. Fold the sides in, then roll up the wrap and cut at an angle. Delicious!

    Main Meals
    Fast Bolognese Sauce
    Serves 4, ready in 25 minutes

  • 500gms extra lean mince steak (less than 5% fat)
  • 1 clove of garlic crushed
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 x 500ml jar of bolognese sauce

    Heat a little oil in a large saucepan or frying pan. Add the garlic and onion and cook for a few minutes until onions are soft. Add the mince and cook until browned. Add the Bolognese sauce and stir thoroughly. Serve with a large helping of boiled spaghetti and a large green salad.

    Spicy Burritos
    Makes 4 burritos, ready in 15 minutes

  • Fast bolognese sauce from previous recipe
  • 440gm can red kidney beans
  • Chilli sauce to taste
  • 4 plain flour tortillas
  • Iceberg lettuce shredded
  • 3 tomatoes diced
  • 100gms reduced fat cheese
  • Low fat natural yoghurt

    Heat the bolognese sauce in a pan with the kidney beans and chilli sauce . Stir until heated through thoroughly. To serve, take 1 tortilla, place the sauce, lettuce and tomato on it, add a sprinkle of cheese and a dollop of natural yoghurt. Roll up and serve immediately.

    Easy Sweet and Sour Chicken
    Serves 4, ready in 30 minutes

  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • Jar of ready made sweet and sour sauce
  • Pack of frozen oriental vegetables
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

    Cut the chicken breasts into evenly sized cubes. Heat the oil in a wok or large saucepan and add the chicken pieces and cook until browned all over. Add the sauce and frozen vegetables and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Serve on a bed of boiled rice.

    Are you, or someone you know, running in the London Marathon? Are you running in fancy dress for a charity? Send us your pictures of the big day.

    You can send your pictures and moving footage to or text them to 07725 100 100

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