Half Marathon Nutrition: A List of Go-to Foods to Eat

Are you preparing for a race? If you are, you need to prepare well before your race day! You must not forget to put your body in the best condition.

Do that by eating the proper nutrition within your rigid half marathon training period. Are you sure you have proper nutrition every day? If not, then DO NOT WORRY!

We’ll help you get the proper nutrition you’ll need to be ready when you get to the race start.

What Food Should You Eat Before a Half Marathon?

Every registered dietitian would tell you that a proper diet is vital throughout the entire training process, not just the day before the race.

Planning what to eat before a half marathon is essential because the foods you will pick can make or break your overall performance.

Assuming your diet has been healthy and balanced, the day before your event, you should follow the usual diet that you have had since day one of your training.

Before the Race

Proper nutrition does NOT mean dramatically changing your diet or trying new foods. Follow the routine you’ve already established from your training leading up to your race.

Generally, try to eat meals that are balanced in protein, fat, and carbohydrates. These are the usual meals for most runners during the day in training:

  • Breakfast:​ whole wheat bread or oatmeal with nut butter and fresh fruit
  • Lunch:​ chicken with leafy greens and sweet potatoes
  • Dinner:​ salmon (lean protein) with grilled vegetables and rice

Is carb loading on the pre-day training necessary for a half marathon?

Yes, but you’ll need to be careful when carb loading. Choose easy-to-digest carbs from starchy vegetables.

During the Race

On the day of the race, your meals are essential as these will supplement your energy throughout your race.

A half marathon usually starts in the morning, so your breakfast should give you the right amount of nutrition.

Here are some during-the-race nutrition tips:

  • Replenish your carbohydrate stores during runs of 90 minutes or more.
  • Include sports gels, energy chews, and isotonic drinks to hydrate you during the race
  • Fuel every with around 30-60 grams of carbohydrate (120-140 calories) per hour

Foods that are a good source of easily digestible carbohydrates are bananas, white bread, honey sandwiches, or energy gels.

After the Race

After running a half marathon, the foods you choose to eat must help boost your recovery! What are the right foods to eat after the race? Here is a list:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables and red meat – excellent for recovery after a long race
  • Dairy produce such as low-fat cheese and natural Greek yogurt for muscle recovery
  • Oily fish – has healthy fats (Omega 3s), which bring down inflammation and repair tissue
  • Chocolate milk has a 3:1 carb to protein ratio, making it a great recovery source of food

These foods will give you more vitamins, minerals, and healthy micronutrients to repair the damage and boost muscle recovery.

You can quickly get back to training again for your next race!

Half Marathon Training: What Food to Avoid

Eat moderate protein and simple carbs and drink water or sports beverages 2-4 HOURS BEFORE the race.

Avoid high-fiber foods such as apples and any whole grain. Consuming these high in fiber foods can lead to an increase in the need for bowel movements.

Also, try not to drink water or sports beverages at least 30 minutes before your race so you won’t have to deal with last-minute bathroom use.

The Importance of Hydration

Being well-hydrated keeps us healthy. Drinking enough water daily allows for proper body temperature regulation, mainly affecting our entire body functions.

Dehydration is the most significant contributor to fatigue when training or running. For this reason, a half marathon runner must know when and how to get proper hydration.

When to hydrate when you’re a half marathon runner? To properly hydrate yourself for the race, follow these hydration tips:

  • In the days leading up to the race, drink water consistently.
  • Drinking half of your body’s weight in ounces before the race day is recommended.
  • Avoid drinking about 30 minutes before the race, so you’ll have time for bathroom breaks.
  • Drinking at least 16-20 ounces an hour during the race will help boost your energy.
  • Drinking about 24 oz. for every pound of weight lost after the race is recommended.

Proper hydration helps with recovery. Make sure to replenish when you complete your race.

How Should a Half Marathon Runner Hydrate?

As you are already aware of when the proper time for hydrating will be, the next question is HOW?

Aside from drinking water, you can also hydrate with energy drinks, fruits, and vegetables. Here are some Pro tips on how to get proper hydration during a half marathon race:

  • A sports drink replaces lost fluids and electrolytes better than water during a race.
  • Consume foods with high water content, such as lettuce, grapefruit, and watermelon.
  • Fruit is an excellent source of water, as well as electrolytes and fiber!

During a half marathon race, carry your water or sports drink using flasks, a hydration belt, or a vest. In this way, you can efficiently hydrate yourself while in the race.

Tips for Maintaining Proper Nutrition When Running a Half Marathon

A sports dietitian would tell you that proper sports nutrition is crucial in preparation for any extensive activity such as a half marathon or long runs.

Many runners IGNORED this fact, leading to fatigue, dehydration, and poor health, negatively affecting athletic performance.

Here are some half marathon nutrition tips that will help you get to that finish line.

1. Never Skip Your Breakfast

From the beginning of your training until the day before your race, always start with a good breakfast. It kick-starts your metabolism.

In this way, your body’s natural default will be to use fuel more efficiently so you won’t have risks of fatigue or poor health as you run.

Include a variety of fresh fruits and veggies that are rich in antioxidants, high in fiber, and low in calories to help prevent muscle soreness, speed recovery, and keep you HEALTHY!

2. Make Sure You’re Eating Enough

After breakfast, you should consistently consume nutritionally balanced food every two to four hours throughout the day.

Make sure you’re eating enough and eating right. Taking in too few calories while training can leave you feeling sluggish.

As a runner, you must learn how to monitor your calorie intake. Too much and too little is not good!

If the calorie deficiency lasts too long, it can lead to muscle wasting, and you might fail to finish the marathon.

Ensure that your “eating plan” includes the right amount of nutrition your body needs.

3. Consider Tracking Your Calories

You can track your calories to know how much you should consume every training day. You can do this by using fitness or other fitness and nutrition apps.

Knowing how many calories you consume can greatly affect your health and performance throughout the day, especially during the race.

This will help you stay healthy and feel your best.

4. Take the Right Amount of Carbohydrates and Proteins

Carbs and proteins are your muscles’ primary source of fuel.

Foods that are complex carbohydrates and a good source of lean proteins good for marathon nutrition are the following:

  • Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables for carbs
  • Chicken, turkey, fish, lean cuts of meats, and low-fat dairy for proteins

If you want a healthy and balanced diet, don’t forget to include heart-healthy doses of omega-3 fatty acids with foods like nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocado, and freshwater fish.

Doing so can help reduce muscle inflammation and just about most of the health BENEFITS every runner would need.

5. Hydrate Properly

You must hydrate adequately! Proper hydration is vital from day one of your training until the end of your race.

You’ll sweat excessively if you are an athlete who runs long miles for hours. And not only that you sweat, but it also indicates the amount of energy you’ve used during the run.

With this, you must practice half marathon fueling religiously. Know that muscle glycogen stores in our body only have enough to fuel us for around two hours at the least.

This means you’ll need to refuel before that. Drinking water or sports drinks while training and racing can prevent dehydration.

Hydrate more after completing the race! Recovery should begin immediately after your run ends. Promote recovery with carbohydrates and a small amount of protein.

Fitness Tips For Half Marathon Training

For a successful half marathon training, here are some fitness tips you can keep in mind.

1. Have a Training Plan

If you’re one of the beginners or even elite runners, you should know that aside from eating real food – a great training plan is a must!

One that should effectively prepare you for the half marathon race. Any training plan is good. Even if it’s a do-it-yourself training plan, you will do it as long as you’re consistent with it.

Monitor your progress and take note of the exercises you’ve recently completed. This can help you improve your performance.

Make sure it builds up your distance safely and includes enough rest and recovery days. Training plan for endurance athletes should include longer sessions of:

  • Fat burning endurance exercise
  • High-intensity exercise to reduce body fat if needed

2. Don’t Go Too Fast on Your Longer Training Runs

Start your practice runs with the aim of a gentle pace and not pressure yourself by focusing on speed.

The initial practice runs should be building up your cardio and conditioning your body for the activity.

Don’t use too much force in the beginning, as this will make you feel tired instantly.

You can also get a running coach to guide you with your half marathon training effectively. The usual half marathon distance is 13.1 miles.

Make sure to increase the miles gradually so you can get used to running up to this distance on race day.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We’ve discussed all the essential information you need to know about half marathon nutrition.

Here are some additional facts from the FAQs that might be useful.

What Is the Recommended Calorie Count?

The most recommended calorie count for a half marathon runner to consume is 19-21 calories per pound of body weight for 1.5 hours before and during the race day.

If your half marathon training session calls for 2-3 hours of long runs, it will require increased calories to 22-24 calories per pound of bodyweight.

It is important to monitor your calorie count as this will GREATLY affect your performance as an endurance athlete.

How Much Carbs Should You Intake?

Your carb load depends on your race distance and your body weight. For long runs, you will need to increase your carbohydrate intake per hour to improve your performance.

The longer the run is, the more energy demands you will need to meet. For a half marathon, 30-60g of carbs per hour is recommended to prevent muscle fatigue and maintain pace.

For a more proper carb intake, aim to take about 1/4 – 1/3 of your body weight (lbs.) in carbs for every hour you race and increase it as you take longer running hours.

When Should You Fuel During the Half Marathon?

You must fuel EARLY!

Do not wait until you feel like losing energy before fueling up. Supplement your muscle fuel stores before and during the first 45-60 minutes of a race.

Continue to repeat this fueling time interval. This should EFFECTIVELY help to sustain your energy throughout the race.

Setting a half marathon fueling routine takes practice and learning to read your energy levels.

Should You Drink Water When Taking Sports Gels?

Always take energy gels with water, NEVER on their own or with a sports drink. Without water, it will take a long time before it is digested and enters the bloodstream.

If you plan to take sports gels with sports drinks instead of water, you’ll be ingesting too much simple sugar at once.

With it, delivering close to 60 grams of pure sugar will make your stomach upset. And that’s the last thing you want to feel during the race!


Remember that no matter how hard you’ve trained, you can still fail the race if you lack proper nutrition. Many runners have achieved successful races; just keep that in mind!

The key to a SUCCESSFUL race is dedication to your marathon training and consistency in your nutrition.

Know how to monitor your calorie count and carb intake; eat the right foods and eat enough! If you still have doubts, the best way to do this is to consult a sports dietitian.