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Fuelling Up the Right Way

Fuelling Up the Right Way

Completing a marathon is a feat of strength and stamina that requires fuelling up at the right time in the right way. Therefore, adequate nutrition is a must to keep up the energy levels and perform the best.1,2

The body fuels

A well-balanced diet made up of various foods in correct proportion is essential to cover the daily energy expenditures of an athlete. Carbohydrates should contribute to the maximum with ~60% to 70% of the daily energy intake, proteins ~12% to 15% and fats the remaining 25% to 30%.1


Carbohydrates and proteins are the major sources of energy during exercise and performance. Carbohydrates from our food are broken down to release glucose, the primary source of energy, and also stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Glycogen acts as a source of sustained energy to be released when the demands increase, such as during a long workout. It is important to maintain the carbohydrate levels in the body because it takes 20 to 24 hours to replenish the lost body reserves.2

How do carbohydrates help you perform better?


Because muscle glycogen stores reduce during exercise, proteins act as an alternative source of energy. Regular physical exercises lead to considerable protein loss from the body and, hence, an adequate intake of protein is important to maintain proper protein stores in the body.5

How do proteins help you perform better?


Cut down on the fats, but do not totally eliminate them from your diet. When the glycogen stores deplete during long runs, the body turns to fats for energy. Choose healthy fats such as monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids and avoid fats such as transfats. Because fat takes more time to digest than carbohydrates, it should be avoided in meals before the run.1,4

How do proteins help you perform better?

How much is enough?

You may need to plan your carbohydrate and protein intake carefully because excessive intake of these nutrients can lead to unhealthy weight gain. A simple way to know your carbohydrate requirement is to multiply your weight (kg) by 7 to get the amount of carbohydrates you need to consume per day. For example, if your weight is 75 kg, then you need to take 75 × 7 = 525 g of carbohydrates per day.5

Similarly, your protein requirement per day can be calculated by multiplying your weight (kg) by 1.3. For example, if your weight is 75 kg, then your protein requirement can be calculated as 75 × 1.3 = 97.5 g of protein per day.5

The fat requirement is 30% of your calorie consumption. Therefore, if you consume 3000 calories/day, only 1000 calories should be from fat.

Here is a list of the common foods along with their carbohydrate, protein and fat content.5

Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat Content of Common Foods5

A sample meal plan for a runner weighing 68 kg is given below.

A sample meal plan for a runner weighing 68 kg is given below.
Early Morning
8-10 assorted nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pistachio and dates 1 glass orange juice
1 bowl vegetable salad
3 chapattis
1 bowl vegetable curry 1
bowl dal/curd
½ bowl sweet dish
1 bowl salad
1 bowl soup
2 chapattis
1 bowl chicken/assorted vegetable curry
1 bowl rice
½ bowl dal/curd
2 toasts with 1 tbsp. peanut butter
2 egg whites scrambled with 2 toasts
1 medium banana
1 cup coffee (after 15 minutes)
Afternoon Snack
1 bowl fruit yoghurt
2-3 oatmeal cookies/1 bowl sprouts
1 glass skimmed milk
Morning Snack
1 glass smoothie (any seasonal fruit)Morning Snack
1 glass smoothie (any seasonal fruit)
to be held on 22nd August, 2016  

To make it through the marathon, make sure to eat 1 to 2 hours before and after the run. Your meals in the hours before the run will supply your muscles with glycogen and will essentially fuel up your energy stores. So get, set, go!

1. Williams C. Macronutrients and performance. J Sports Sci. 1995;13: S1-10.

2. Applegate EA. Nutritional considerations for ultraendurance performance. Int J Sport Nutr. 1991; 1:118-26.

3. Jeukendrup AE. Nutrition for endurance sports: marathon, triathlon, and road cycling. J Sports Sci. 2011;29(S1): S91-9.

4. Food and Agriculture Organization. The role of carbohydrates in exercise and physical performance. Rome, Italy: FAO; 2010.

5. National Institute of Nutrition. Dietary guidelines for Indians - a manual. Hyderabad, India: National Institute of Nutrition; 2010.