Road2Hope Hamilton Marathon Nutrition Guide

Road2Hope Hamilton Marathon Nutrition Guide

Proper fueling could be the difference between a good day and a bad day! It’s all about avoiding the bonk, also known as ‘hitting the wall’.  

Our body’s energy

There are three main energy sources for our bodies; carbohydrates, protein and fat.  Our bodies preferred fuel source for a medium-high intensity activity like running a marathon are carbohydrates.  Simple carbohydrates (sugars) are quick to digest and rapidly convert to usable energy, while more complex carbohydrates are slower burning.  Our bodies usually burn the calories we get from eating carbohydrates over the few hours following a meal.  We are also able to accumulate some carbohydrate reserves in our muscles and liver, this is known as glycogen.  These glycogen reserves are an important energy source when we run long distances like 10, 21 or 42 kilomtres; they can last 60-90 minutes depending on the person and we can supplement this energy during our run with gels and energy bars like XACT Energy.



Carb loading (starting 3-4 days before the race):

You will have begun to taper already and therefore spending less energy than in the previous weeks of training.  This means your energy reserves will already be starting to build up. To help the process, focus on meals with plenty of carbs; go for pasta, rice or potatoes (or whatever your preferred carb source is). The night before, avoid fats and too much protein. Drink fluids, avoid alcohol and (reduce) caffeine. Above all, aim to get a few good night’s rest!

Race day breakfast: 

Carbs continued! Foods like bagels and porridge provide sustenance and bananas are

easy to digest. Coffee is okay if you are used to it.  Caffeine has some great benefits; from stimulating the brain to reducing perceived effort (handy for something like a marathon!).

Before the race:

Often a few hours can go by between breakfast and the start of the race, meaning energy levels are starting to drain.  We suggest taking a small carb rich snack with you for 15 to 30 minutes before the race.  An XACT Energy bar is very portable and easy to eat, ideal for the trip to the start.

When should I be eating a gel?!


During the race:

Eat a bar or energy gel containing 25 grams of carbohydrates every 30-45 minutes. This is to say that your fueling strategy is about the frequency that you are going to consume energy as opposed to at what kilometre marker. An XACT Energy bar is exactly 25 grams of carbs and is a tasty alternative to energy gels. 


This handy table can give you an idea of how many bars or gels to take during your race


Frequency Guide:

Number of bars/gels

Every 30 minutes

Every 45 minutes

1st bar

30’ before the course

30’ before the course

2nd bar

30 minutes

45 minutes

3rd bar

1 hour

1 hour 30 mins

4th bar

1 hour 30 mins

2 hours 15 minutes

5th bar

2 hours

3 hours

6th bar

2 hours 30 minutes

3 hours 45 minutes

7th bar

3 hours

4 hours 30 minutes

8th bar 

3 hours 30 minutes

5 hours 15 minutes

9th bar

4 hours

6 hours


Fuel and fluids along the course:

There are water and XACT Electrolyte stations every 4-5 kilometres along the course (The XACT Electrolytes have the option of either non-caffeinated or caffeinated (50mg/500ml - most cups are only about 150-250 ml when full).  If it is a warm day, strive to drink electrolytes regularly to maintain your blood to electrolyte balance.


Fuelling stations:

½ marathon - there is one station at the halfway mark (10.5 kms), perfect for picking up a little energy in that back half of the race.


On the full marathon distance, there is the station same at 10.5, plus a station at 21 kms and then again at 31.5 kms (same as aid station at 10.5 kms)


So knowing that there are 3 aid stations on the course, you can use the above table to work out how many bars or gels you need to bring with you.


After your race:

Congratulations for finishing your race! Start your recovery process, by drinking 500 - 1000 ml of fluids, ideally with electrolytes and some carbohydrates in, and by eating a snack with a mix of carbohydrates and protein (4 to 1 ratio is approximately the right proportion but do not worry too much about being exact).  Once you have had both of these your body will thank you and you will be ready for that well deserved post race beer!