Nutrition Strategy for Marathon Training


The critical nutritional factors that affect sports performance are HYDRATION and ENERGY supply

Adopting a nutritional strategy that helps to optimise your energy supply and hydration is the most effective way to improve your sports performance.  Energy supply and hydration have an immediate effect on sports performance.  As little as a 2% loss in body weight through dehydration can decrease performance by up to 20%, and once carbohydrate energy is used up performance decreases even more significantly.


The body provides energy by burning fats, carbohydrates and some proteins. Carbohydrate has a lower oxygen cost than fat, more energy can be produced with a given amount of oxygen using carbohydrate as a fuel rather than fat. The efficient use of fat is also dependent upon the availability of carbohydrate, it is often said that "fat burns in the flame of carbohydrate". The critical factors for a good and more enjoyable sports performance will be replenishing carbohydrate and ensuring you remain hydrated.

Pre-Event Feeding

The conventional advice is that the pre-event meal should be taken 2 - 3 hours before competing.  It should be relatively light but high in carbohydrate and low in fat.  OTE Energy Drink and OTE Energy Gels can be useful additions to the pre-event meal to increase the carbohydrate content without increasing the bulkiness of the meal.  Eating anything within an hour before an event has previously been considered detrimental to performance due to the possible insulin response.  OTE Energy Gels contain 20g of carbohydrate and are ideal to take 5 to 10 minutes before competition.  Individual response to pre-event feeding varies; we recommend you practice in training the strategy you intend to use during competition.

General Tips

  • Nutrition advice and product usage for half or full marathons will vary depending on the climate and the intensity you race at.  If it is particularly hot and humid then you will need to think carefully about your hydration strategy.
  • The harder the intensity then more fuel (carbohydrate) will be used and need replacing for the latter stages of the event.  
  • The basic advice of supplementing 60-90g of carbohydrate per hour still remains true and as a rule of thumb is what you should be aiming to achieve in terms of carbohydrate intake.  Carbohydrate should be taken alongside enough fluid as necessary to ensure you remain hydrated throughout the duration of the event. 
  • We recommended you sip your energy/hydration drink at regular intervals rather than by taking large mouthfuls less frequently. 
  • As with any endurance event it is important to ensure you are carbohydrate loaded and suitably hydrated in the days leading up to the event.  If you are fully carbohydrate loaded, tapered and are well rested prior to the event you should have enough carbohydrate energy stored in your muscles (glycogen) for approximately 90 minutes worth of running.
Our Top Tip: Always practice in training what you intend to do on race day.

Strategy used by OTE Team Member during Marathon Training (long run)

  • High carbohydrate meal or snack 2 hours prior to the run, remain hydrated during the day by sipping OTE Hydro Tabs.  This will provide you with a little extra carbohydrate as well as helping you remain hydrated.
  • Consume an OTE Energy Gel 10 minutes before starting the run.
  • Carry 500ml of OTE Energy drink (1 x 43g sachet) and sip throughout you’re run. This should be just enough fluid to get you through a 2 hour run if you are well hydrated before you start.  However, 500ml of fluid may not be enough for many people, especially if it's hot, the best way to overcome this would be to do 2 or 3 loops of a smaller circuit so you can collect more fluid, or arrange for additional drinks to be handed up to you on route.
  • Carry a minimum of 3 OTE Energy Gels and take one every 30 minutes to ensure you remain fully fuelled; this will help you maintain the quality of your run.  It may be worth using an OTE Caffeine Gel as your final Gel to give you that extra boost.
  • Have a serving of OTE Recovery Drink within 30 minutes of finishing your long training run followed by a light meal 1 hour later.

Race Day Strategy

  • Have a good and preferably light breakfast that you are used to 2 to 3 hours before the start of the event. Try to consume 150g to 200g of carbohydrate and continue to sip OTE Energy Drink until 15 minutes before the start.
  • Consume an OTE Energy Gel 10 minutes before the start.
  • Sip water throughout the marathon and ensure you carry or make provision to consume an OTE Energy Gel every 30-40 minutes during the marathon.  We recommended you switch to OTE Caffeine Gels after 25-30Km for that extra boost.
  • Have an OTE Recovery Drink on finishing followed by a meal and some other in-appropriate beverages!!

If it is particularly hot it may be worth considering carrying your own OTE Energy Drink to ensure you take on board the necessary electrolytes to help you remain hydrated.

By applying this strategy you can complete your marathon by using the same nutrition products on race day that you have used in training.  Why take the risk of introducing nutrition unknowns on a day that you have trained long and hard for?

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  • Andrew Gordon