6 Hacks that Keep Your Marathon Diet on Track

Use these expert-level tips to save time and stay focused on your ultimate running goals.

Of all the marathon tips we can offer, here’s an easy one: Getting the nutrition you need doesn’t need to be complicated.

For example, you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen cooking gourmet meals in order to get the nutrients you need to keep your training plan and marathon diet on track.

As sports dietitian Meghann Featherstun will tell you, finding just 30 minutes to prepare ingredients over the weekend makes it easier to organize meals throughout the week.

Featherstun, who recently completed her 16th marathon is, quite literally, always on the run. This year, she earned her Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star medal after running Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City.

But she doesn’t let cooking for her family and eating on the go eat up hours of her day.

The key to her wins? Smart planning, recognizing that, as she says, “Daily nutrition is the foundation to success.”

Here she shares six running-related nutrition hacks that keep her going — and thriving.

Keep Staples on Hand

Even a mostly empty fridge should be stocked with some basics. It just makes it easier to whip up last-minute meals, as Featherstun tells her clients.

That means you need to have core basics on hand. She gives two prime examples: eggs and avocados. They have a longer shelf life and can even be combined on a piece of hearty sourdough bread.

“If all else fails, have ingredients that you can throw together to make a sandwich,” she said.

Make it Easy to Find Your Fuel

Even on shorter runs, Featherstun prioritizes nutrition. For her, that means having what she needs in the pantry or freezer. “If you’re doing a long run, find something that’s shelf-stable, like a granola bar or even a loaf of bread,” she added.

It goes hand in hand with her advice about always having staples available. And she offers another tip to put quick carbs to use for you: Keep bagels in the freezer that can be reheated in a pinch to help fuel your run.

Meanwhile, don’t limit your planning to food. Hydration is fuel, too, and electrolyte drinks make it easy.  

Prep the Snacks

Even if your meals are on point, you’ll likely need snacks between meals when you are training for a marathon. The goal of snacking is to make it to your next meal without being famished. And to provide your body with the energy it needs for training and recovery.

When you’re hungry, you often want the convenience of a snack, but you’ll have to plan ahead for something that’s balanced with the protein and carbs your body needs.

Featherstun’s favorite snack to toss together? Energy bites, made quickly by tossing dates, nuts and a few other healthy ingredients together in a food processor.

Space Out Your Protein

Eating lean protein — including chicken or turkey — throughout the day can make it easier to feel full while maintaining muscle, Featherstun explained. Try eating some protein as a part of almost every meal rather than a larger portion for dinner. “Especially if you’re over 40 and want to maintain muscle mass, we have to eat more protein at each meal,” she said.

Need a satisfying breakfast? Featherstun has a hack for that: make-ahead breakfast burritos with beans, cheddar cheese, eggs and veggies. The burritos can be stored in the fridge or freezer and warmed up as needed in the microwave.

The beauty of a burrito, she added, is that it’s easy to customize. Adding potatoes or tweaking the amounts of each ingredient is no problem. You can load up on protein or go higher-carb during days where you’re running long distances.

Plan, But Don’t Waste Time with Meticulous Details

Rather than prepping entire meals on Sundays, Featherstun pre-makes ingredients that she can mix and match throughout the week. Maybe it’s shredded chicken that she can add to the top of a salad, roll up into a burrito for her daughter or toss on top of pre-cooked rice.

“It’s all about having those premade higher-protein or higher-carb items,” she said. This can also help reduce the fatigue of eating the same prepped foods again and again. It’s better to make your nutrition needs things to look forward to.

Mix It Up

No matter the recipe, making the same thing can get boring. Rather than following a routine, Featherstun stressed the importance of spontaneity when it comes to daily meals and snacks.

For many of us, it’s essential to enjoy the process of customizing our nutrition, not just the result.

For her after-run fuel, Featherstun is known to blend a variety of protein and carbs together for a shower shake — which she quite literally drinks in the shower.

“We need to make it fun and easy for us to throw together,” she said. “When it gets boring, we’re not going to do it.”