Half Marathon Diet Plan

Realistic planning begins two months or more before half marathon. Nutritional planning and preparation is just as critical as the actual running part of training. Learn how to balance your intake of carbohydrates, protein and fats for optimal performance. This article will walk you through the essentials for a great finish, as well as provide you with recommended meal plans.

Key Nutrients for Half Marathon Diet Plan

1. Protein

Protein is the building block of muscle. Skimp or add up this nutrient at your own peril.

  • Reason. Protein requirements are higher for athletes than couch potatoes. Your goal should be 30% of total calories from protein at a maximum.
  • Sources. Lean cuts of meat and plant based proteins are the best sources. Quality meat cuts, tofu, egg whites, cold water fish, avocados, nuts and low-fat milk or almond milk are all excellent protein choices for the athlete.

2. Carbohydrate

This group provides quick energy when training and racing. Your body will crave carbs when putting in long miles and after a good workout or race.

  • Reason. 50% of your total daily caloric intake should be in the form of carbohydrates. Try to cut back and you will feel sluggish and fatigued.
  • Sources. Complex carbs are the best option. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains. Brown rice is a good option. Steer clear of junk food such as candy, pop, cookies and cakes. Adequate fiber will slow digestion and provide a more steady release of energy for better training and racing.

3. Fat

Fat and protein both contain the same amount of energy per gram, but too much fat can slow you down. The daily goal is 20% of total calories from fat.

  • Reason. The body needs some fat for proper health and metabolism. Endurance athletes rapidly deplete fat during intense and prolonged exercise.
  • Sources. Pick lean cuts of meat, seafood, olive oil, avocados and nuts.

4. Water

Hydration is critical during training and running your half marathon. 60% of the body consists of water. It is found inside and outside of our cells, muscles and tissues.

  • Reason. Dehydration will hamper training efforts and negatively impact your run performance. As little as 2% dehydration will slow you by as much as 10%. Don’t waste your training efforts only to slow down during a half marathon because you are dehydrated.
  • Sources. Diluted sports drinks and commercially available electrolyte drinks are another option for workouts and racing. Water can also be attained from fresh vegetables and fruits.

Recommended Half Marathon Diet Plan

1. Three days before race

To ensure maximal carbohydrate stores increase total carbs to 70% of daily calories three days before the race. Daily calorie intake should be around 2,900. For example, a 140-pound female needs 515 grams of carbs per day. The goal is to saturate muscle stores of glycogen derived from carbohydrate intake from the diet.


Warm apple-raisin oatmeal

  • 1 cup dry oatmeal
  • ½ cup skim or almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 1 sliced apple

610 calories, 16 g protein, 128 g carbs, 6 g fat, 14 g


Nature Valley Granola Oats ‘n Honey Granola Bar

190 calories, 4 g protein, 29 g carbs, 6 g fat, 2 g fiber


Turkey & Hummus Sandwich, lentil soup and applesauce

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon hummus spread on each slice
  • 3 oz. turkey
  • Lettuce, 2 slices tomato
  • 1 cup lentil soup (organic)
  • 1 cup applesauce

685 calories, 39 g protein, 109 carbs, 11.5 g fat, 14 g fiber


Banana & Almond Butter Treat

  • Toast whole wheat English muffin
  • ½ teaspoon almond butter on each piece
  • ½ tablespoon honey
  • Top with banana slices

285 calories, 10 g protein, 60 g carbs, 4 g fat, 5 g fiber


Quinoa Pasta with Turkey Marinara

  • 1 ½ cups cooked quinoa pasta
  • Sautee 4 oz. ground lean turkey for 3-5 minutes
  • Add turkey and ½ cup marinara sauce to pasta
  • Serve with 1 cup sautéed spinach drizzled with 1 table spoon extra virgin olive oil & 1 dinner roll

1,000 calories, 44 g protein, 163 carbs, 10.5 g fat, 18 g fiber


2 fig newtons and ½ cup skim or almond milk

130 calories, 5 g protein, 28 g carbs, 0 g fat, 1 g fiber

2. Before, during and post race

Night before

  • Eat similar to training
  • Balanced meals with 65% carbs
  • Brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, corn, squash and fruits and vegetables
  • Aim for 30% fat
  • The remaining calories from lean protein, like pork tenderloin, tofu, shellfish or chicken.
  • Avoid high fiber and dairy to prevent bloating and cramps

Race morning

  • Drink 18-24 oz. fluid 2 hours before the race
  • Eat 2 – 4 hours pre-race
  • Eat familiar and easy to digest foods like oatmeal, fruit, yogurt and peanut butter
  • Consume 8 oz. 30 minutes before race starts


the race

  • Hydrate and drink every 15 minutes
  • Consume 30 – 60 g of carbs per hour
  • Drink water when you take in carbs to avoid cramping
  • Alternate between sports drinks and water
  • Don’t skip fluid stations during the race
  • Carry gels, blocks or dried fruit bites
  • Determine your sweat rate and replace losses as you run
  • Don’t guzzle large quantities of fluids as the stomach can absorb 0.5 L/hr. at a maximum

Post race

  • Replace protein and carbs
  • Low fat chocolate milk is a good choice
  • Eat a balanced meal within 2 hours post race to help repair muscle damage
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