Marathon and refreshments in sight: prepare your action plan

refueling race

Refueling methods

On marathon day, you probably belong to one of three groups of runners when it comes to refueling:

  • Elites who have the ability to place their individual supplies on tables reserved for that purpose.
  • The brave ones who carry their food.
  • Optimists who rely solely on diners to find sources of energy and water… and rejuvenate.

Some of us are accustomed to the convenience of gas stations to find “quick” carbs and drinks. But as Covid medical protocols evolve, they are forcing endurance sports organizers to change or even eliminate certain food allocations and encourage runner autonomy.

“Optimistic” marathon runners should prepare for new forms of food distribution along the course.

What supplies?

Sometimes there is something to get lost in the face of an abundance of drinks and foods, the absorption of which depends on everyone. Faced with health guidelines, some marathons choose to:

  • Exclusion of “wholesale” assortment (dried fruits, sugar cubes, pretzels, etc.) to avoid multiple contacts upon receipt and to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Using a personal drinking cup.
  • Presentation of bananas, apples, gingerbread slices, sugar, sweet cake slices, savory biscuits… wrapped as a precaution. If you’re running a marathon in less than 4 hours, solid foods aren’t digestible well, sports drinks are the best option.

It is easy to understand that before risking such distances, it is better to learn about the foods and drinks present in the refreshment zones to make sure they are well tolerated, after all, we are not all equal in terms of calorie absorption. And without refueling, there is a risk of failure due to “run out of gasoline”!


Experienced marathon runners know it’s important to train with the same types of foods that are available on the track so that the body gets used to them. In addition, training serves as a dress rehearsal for your nutrition and water action plan for D-Day of your marathon. You can learn to drink and eat in excess of “kilograms”!

For activities that last more than three hours, you must consume 40 to 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour from a combination of carbohydrate sources. In order to estimate your energy requirements, you must test the products you find in the supply tables under real conditions.

Integrating them into your long sessions allows you to set the ideal fuel mix, choose the foods that you find most digestible, adjust the weights to suit your digestive tract responses, effort intensity, workout duration. race, …, and prevent unpleasant surprises (indigestion, drop in blood sugar, etc.). We must not forget that taste sensations, appetite and digestive tolerance change during the race.

Ideally, in parallel with each workout program and environmental conditions (temperature, etc.), note in your training log: daily food and water tests, negative feelings, positive results, “confidence” in carbohydrates. to refine your dietary action plan.

Correct answers cannot be found overnight. Perseverance!

Dominique Poulain, sports nutritionist-nutritionist: