What to Eat Before Half Marathon: Ultimate 2024 Guide

As the day of your half marathon approaches and you lace up your running shoes, it’s easy to focus solely on training.  

However, training for a half marathon takes a triangular approach: training, recovery, and nutrition. The third pillar, nutrition, is often overlooked by many runners. Yet, having a basic half marathon nutrition plan to manage your nutrition intake before, during, and after the race is essential.   

Studies reveal that your body needs a good balance of nutrients in order to train hard and recover faster. On the other hand, poor nutrition can significantly impact your athletic performance and recovery.

We’ve been chatting with our friends at Runningwithus to get the best tips and tricks to be well-fuelled for your next half marathon. Here’s an information-packed guide on the best ways to fuel and recharge your body for a half marathon. Let’s get started!

Short Summary

To help you get started and understand what's to come, check out the below summary of this article:

  • Carb Load Effectively: In the days before your half marathon, focus on carb loading with whole grain carbohydrates like sweet potatoes to maximise glycogen stores. This ensures you have the sustained energy needed for optimal performance.
  • Incorporate Healthy Fats: Include healthy fats from sources like nuts and avocados in your meals. These are essential for long-lasting energy and should be a part of your balanced meal planning.
  • Pre-Race Dinner: The night before the race, eat a pre-race dinner high in complex carbs and low in fat. This meal should be easy to digest to prevent any discomfort during the race.
  • Pre-Race Breakfast: On race day, consume a pre-race breakfast rich in complex carbohydrates about 3-4 hours before the event. A smaller snack, such as High5 Energy Bars, can be eaten closer to the start time for a final energy boost.
  • Stay Hydrated with Sports Drinks: Drink sports drinks in addition to water to stay hydrated and maintain electrolyte balance. Sports drinks can help prevent cramps and ensure you're well-hydrated throughout the race.

How to Eat Two Weeks Before a Half Marathon: 5 Practical Tips

Whether you are a professional athlete or running for fun, you would know that race preparation starts weeks before race day. Before a half marathon, you must ensure adequate carb loading to fuel your training sessions.

Here are five effective tips you can rely on:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods  
  • Don’t exclude whole-food grains
  • Eat wholesome whole-grain carbohydrate
  • Eat a good variety of protein daily
  • Stay hydrated 

Eat a Variety of Healthy Foods

Instead of munching on unhealthy foods or snacks, balance your diet days before the half marathon race day. The best way to do it is to plan your meals instead of getting them ‘on the fly’. Invest your time preparing a well-rounded meal plan and shop once for your weekly meals. 

Eat a Variety of Healthy Foods

Don’t forget to include a variety of food groups to ensure that your body gets optimal nutrients. Meal planning and weekly shopping will help you avoid last-minute decisions that may not serve your energy needs well. 

Don’t Exclude Whole Food Groups

If you are looking to lose weight whilst building up your long training runs, make sure you understand sports nutrition. In order to train and recover, your body needs fat, protein, and, yes, carbohydrates!

No single food can maintain good health and cater to the energy requirements of the human body. So, you must use the term “superfoods” cautiously. Instead of relying on a single food, include the following items in your diet. 

  • Berries
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Pulses
  • Quinoa
  • Mixed coloured fruits
  • Variety of vegetables and leafy greens  

In particular, the following “superfoods” can be a great addition to your meal plan:

  • Blueberries
  • Beetroot
  • Avocado 
  • Kiwifruit
  • Broccoli 
  • Oily fish 

It is important not to exclude whole food groups to ensure your body is getting the vitamins and minerals it needs. Exercising regularly to prepare for the race can put your immune system under pressure. Take HIGH5 Energy Gels before and during the exercise to maintain your energy levels during intense physical exercise. You can take up to three sachets per hour during the exercise if you’re not using energy drinks. If you want to use it in combination with an energy drink, use less than three.

HIGH5 Energy Gel

Eat Wholesome Whole Grain Carbohydrate

Although you need to include a carbohydrate-based diet in your routine, it doesn’t mean taking excessively large portions of refined carbohydrates. Foods containing refined carbohydrates include cakes and sugary cereals that offer a lot of calories but a relatively limited density of vitamins and minerals. Such a carb load will not benefit you.  

Instead, take whole grain complex carbohydrates using foods such as rye bread, sweet potatoes, and buckwheat. They comprise complex carbohydrates, making them a more sustained source of energy.

Eat a Good Variety of Protein Daily

Remember, protein is key. It is important to include a good variety of protein sources in your meals daily. Lean meat, pulses, and dairy are good sources of protein. However, the timing of protein intake is important. Unlike carbohydrates and fat, our bodies don’t store protein.

Breakfast can be an ideal time for protein intake. After a night of sleep without food, your body will need protein. 

  • Try to include some protein sources, such as yoghurt and eggs, in your breakfast.  
  • Take a steady intake of quality protein throughout the day. Although the Recommended  Dietary Allowance for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight, studies show that protein requirements are elevated in endurance athletes. Experts suggest consuming between 0.5 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. 
  • Include healthy fats such as eggs, nuts, avocados, and oily fish daily.
  • Reduce trans-fatty acid intake, for instance, chocolate bars and biscuits. 
HIGH5 Electrolyte Drinks before running

Stay Hydrated

Zero Electrolyte Tablets

Proper hydration is crucial for a successful half marathon; it’s important to keep your body adequately hydrated before, during, and after the race. Males should aim for an average daily intake of 3.7 litres of water—from foods, fruits, and beverages—while females should aim for 2.7 litres. You can also consume sports drinks and fruit juice. A great way to stay hydrated throughout the day is to carry a bottle of water everywhere you go and refill it when necessary.

Add some flavour and key electrolytes to your water by adding a rehydration electrolyte tablet in water. With magnesium, HIGH5 helps you keep a normal electrolyte balance. Take this as a part of your cramp prevention strategy and to keep your body in balance. 

What to do the Day Before a Half Marathon? (Preparing for Race Day Success)

The day before a half marathon is important to ensure you are fully fuelled for the big race day. Allocate a couple of pre-race days for carb loading. Your pre-training meal a day before a half marathon should contain foods high in carbohydrates, low in fat, moderate amounts of protein, low in simple sugars, and concentrated fibre. 

In the evening, take a small meal that doesn’t sit heavy in the stomach. Generally, you should consume the meal far enough in advance to sleep. This allows for timely stomach emptying and intestinal absorption. 

Steer clear of indigestible food in your marathon nutrition plan. They may create issues in the digestive system on race day. If you have been maintaining good carbohydrate intake days before the race, you will have adequate carb energy for running a half marathon.    

What to Eat on the Morning of a Half Marathon? (Optimal Breakfast Choices for Race Day) 

Race day is all about having a plan you have practised and sticking with what you know works. Avoid experimenting with new foods on this day. 

Pre-race breakfast is an important meal for carb intake, so make it count. Moreover, the timing and quantity of the meal is also important. 

  • A good rule of thumb is to have a meal rich in complex carbohydrates approx. 3–4 hours before half marathon training. 
  • You can then eat a smaller 200-300 calorie meal such as a wholemeal bagel or oatcakes with banana 1–2 hours before running. 
  • Alternatively, snack on half an energy bar 60–75 minutes before the race starts and make sure to keep a bottle filled with an energy drink near to top up. 
  • If you plan on running in the evening, plan your food intake accordingly to allow for a healthy mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. 
  • This could include wholegrain rice cakes with nut butter, a handful of dried mangoes, or a banana. This would ensure you’ve got enough energy to fuel your run. 

Make sure not to overeat before running. More food will not give you more energy if it is not balanced. This can leave you feeling sluggish and may cause stomach pains when running later on. Good balanced food planning will ensure you arrive at your run raring to go!

Can You Drink Coffee Before a Half Marathon? (Maximising Your Pre-Race Caffeine)

HIGH5 Energy Gel Caffeine

Many runners are curious about whether they can drink coffee before the half marathon. Coffee contains high amounts of caffeine. Studies show that caffeine can enhance concentration and focus during sporting competitions. Drinking caffeine can improve alertness and enhance focus during running. 

So, you can drink coffee before the race. However, if you want to have an easy-to-have solution with the benefits of caffeine, try Energy Gel Caffeine. You can have it on the go before and during the race, and it tastes good, too. 

What to Eat During a Half Marathon? (Fuel Your Runs for Peak Performance)

During the race where you run long distances, you must fuel throughout the race to sustain energy and pace towards the end. A half marathon usually takes more than two hours to complete. This means you may feel exhausted, and your energy levels can go down during the race.

An easy way to refuel your energy is through energy gels. They allow you to get energy quickly and easily into your system. Take one gel every 20 minutes or every 5 kilometres. HIGH5 energy gels are easy to swallow without the need to drink water with them. 

Moreover, sip on water throughout the race, but don’t overdo it. You don’t need to drink gallons of water during the race. Go in well hydrated and then sip every few kilometres to rehydrate fast and keep topped up.

What to Eat For a Quick Recovery After a Half Marathon?

Managing your diet is not only important before the race but also crucial for rapid and swift muscle recovery after a half marathon. Finishing the race is all about recovery. Your body needs;

  • Protein 
  • Carbohydrates 
  • Electrolytes 

Make sure you take a protein and carb-rich meal 1–2 hours after the race. It will help replenish your muscle glycogen stores and help in muscle building. Studies show that taking 0.2-0.5 grams of protein per kg of body weight can increase muscle protein synthesis. 

HIGH5 recovery drink

Our recovery bars offer the perfect balance of carbs and protein to be taken after a tough running session. To kick-start the recovery process effectively, it's crucial to intake some protein and carbs within 30 minutes of exercise.

Additionally, ensure you have a sachet of our recovery drink in your bag, ready to consume after your activity, to support your recovery further.

Explore our range of recovery drinks and choose the best one for your taste and energy requirements. 

So, What to Eat Before the Half Marathon?

Now that you have read through the blog, you not only know what to eat before a half marathon but also during and after the race. Whether you're an avid runner or a dedicated triathlete, pay attention to the effects of food intake on your body and energy levels. Listen to your body and stick to what works for you the best. 

Additionally, include HIGH5 energy sports drinks and energy supplements to help take your performance to new heights. No matter how tough it gets on roads, HIGH5 has always got your back.

While this guide focuses on preparing for a half-marathon, runners tackling shorter distances can also benefit from tailored nutrition plans. Find out how to optimise your performance for these races with our 5K fueling strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many hours before a half marathon should you eat?

Aim to eat a good breakfast 2–3 hours before the start of your race. Aim to eat slowly, as nerves can lead many to eat breakfast too quickly and upset their digestion. Snack on half an energy bar or banana perhaps 60–75 minutes before the race starts, and make sure to keep a bottle filled with energy drinks near the top-up.  

What foods to avoid before running?

Before running, you should avoid oily and fatty food items, spicy food, high-fibre vegetables and fruits, most dairy products, sugary drinks and sodas, and alcohol. Avoiding these foods ensures that you have the required fuelling in your body for the race without upsetting your stomach. 

Are eggs good before a half marathon?

Yes, eggs can be good before a half marathon as long as you take them three hours before the race. Eggs are rich in protein and healthy fats that boost your energy levels. Consider eating a balanced meal, including boiled eggs with some carbs and fat. 

How should I eat on the morning of a half marathon?

On the morning of the half marathon, you should eat a high carbohydrate breakfast, which has moderate protein, low fibre, and low fats. This is a balanced nutrient composition to provide you with the energy you need right before the race. 

What can I eat before a half marathon?

Before a half marathon, you can eat a light carbohydrate meal. Among the pre-race meal options, bananas and granola bars are specifically considered good energy boosters before a race. However, make sure you avoid fibre-rich food to prevent unwanted digestive issues before and during the run. 

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