Running 26 miles is hard enough for even the most accomplished athlete. However, if you’re not eating the right food, it can become a nightmare. Knowing what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat it before a race can make the difference between a new personal best and a trip to the hospital. Continue reading to learn about the best foods for marathon runners.


Wild Salmon

Because marathon running requires a superb level of cardiovascular endurance, athletes must ensure that they are eating foods that aid in increasing the amount of blood being pumped by the heart during exercise.

Eating wild salmon has been proven to not only increase heart stroke volume and cardiac output, but also to promote a healthy heart because salmon contains essential Omega-3 fatty acids. Very few Americans actually get enough Omega-3 fatty acids. However, given that they help reduce inflammation in the joints and blood vessels, they are imperative for a runner.



Great as a snack on the move, cherries are the world’s most antioxidant-fruit. In addition to being proven to prevent cancerous tumor growth and for maintaining healthy blood vessels, cherries have been linked to increasing a person’s athletic performance.

Studies have shown that eating cherries in the days prior to a big athletic event reduces the amount of strength loss and muscle soreness a person will feel.



Like any leafy green, kale is associated with some of the body’s most essential vitamins including A, B6, C, K, iron and calcium. According to, kale is considered a 5-star food in the category of optimum health.

Any runner can attest to the inflammation around the joints after a lengthy race. Due to kale’s anti-inflammatory nutrients, maintaining a diet rich in this vegetable can help prevent inflammation after a run.


Skim Milk

Because of skim milk’s concoction of fast-moving carbohydrates and proteins, it is considered the best muscle recovery food/drink for runners right after a workout.

After a lengthy run, it is important to replace the body’s muscle glycogen content to prevent the loss of valuable muscle. Since muscle tissues replenish faster when both carbohydrates and proteins are consumed simultaneously, many industry experts recommend immediately consuming a glass of skim milk after a marathon.



Given that bananas contain more than 30 grams of carbohydrates, it is easy to see why they are considered the best pre-race food for marathon runners. In addition to the carbs, bananas contain only 1 gram of protein and not an ounce of fat.

Bananas are best consumed before a run because they give you a jolt of energy while helping to increase the body’s potassium levels, which are lost when the body sweats.



Due to the excessive amount of calories lost and energy exerted during a run, sports nutritionists advise that marathon runners consume more than half of their daily calorie intake from carbohydrates. However, not every type of food that contains carbohydrates is good for a runner’s body.

Prior to a day of intense running or training, it is advised to eat a high-carb breakfast that starts with oatmeal. Oatmeal contains an incredible 27 grams of carbs in only a ½ cup serving. Since oatmeal is a high-fiber and low-glycemic food, the energy gained from eating it is exceptionally long lasting. Consequently, runners who eat oatmeal prior to training have been able to run for significantly longer periods.


Green Tea

Although this may come as a surprise to many, green tea is increasingly becoming the most recommended item for runners because of its incredibly high level of healthy antioxidants.

Researchers believe that green tea helps increase the muscles’ capacity for burning fat while exercising by reducing the number of free radicals that can stop a person’s fat metabolism. Aside from these factors, green tea is useful to runners simply because of its high content of healthy caffeine. An 8-oz serving of green tea has 25-30 mg of caffeine compared to 120-170 mg in coffee.


Whole Wheat Pasta

Pasta has long been a favorite pre-race meal for long-distance runners because it is packed with carbohydrates. For an even healthier boost, runners are recommended to opt for whole-wheat pasta because it contains roughly six grams of fiber. Therefore, not only will this pasta provide long-lasting energy, but it will also help improve the body’s digestive health.


Armed with this information, runners can now go out to set a new personal record by eating a diet full of the most useful foods.


Know other great foods for marathon runners? Share them with us in the comments.