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Eat Three Hours Before Start of Marathon

I was watching the women’s Olympic marathon and heard the announcers talking about the Chinese imitating the Japanese in eating their main meal three hours before the start of the marathon.

Hmm, that sounds familiar. Hammer Nutrition recommends this same protocol in their Endurance Sports Nutrition – Fueling Handbook. Check out the Pre-Race Meal chapter to get all of the details and here is the overview from this chapter below:

  1. The title is somewhat of misnomer,
    because you don’t really need a
    full-fledged meal, just a snack to top
    off your liver glycogen. Your muscle
    glycogen, the first fuel recruited
    when exercise begins, does not
    deplete overnight.
  2. You don’t need a big meal. You
    don’t need much protein, if any.
    You don’t need fiber. You need
    little, if any fat, and you want zero
    saturated fat. This isn’t the time
    for a fully-balanced, healthy meal.
    You primarily want easy to digest
    complex carbs.
  3. Whatever you eat, finish a
    good three hours before race
    time to allow adequate time for
    digestion, absorption, and your
    blood glucose regulation system
    to normalize.
  4. Pre-exercise hunger is not a
    sign of depleted glycogen; you
    can begin a workout or race when
    hungry. Once you get going, the
    hunger will stop. You do, however,
    want a full load of muscle glycogen,
    and that only comes from months
    of endurance training and proper
    recovery nutrition. You will not gain
    anything (except weight) by carboloading
    before a race.
  5. A good pre-race snack might
    consist of a serving or two of
    Hammer Gel, a serving of Sustained
    Energy or Perpetuem, a bagel, a
    baked potato, or some combination
    of these.

For all longer events like a marathon, this protocol has worked for me. I also like a liquid carbohydrate breakfast. For shorter events, the recommendations differ a bit as noted in the guide.

Happy Training!

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About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

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