Blog Lessons Learned: The Importance of Nutrition in Marathon Training

By Mountain Fuel
June 24, 2024

Training for a marathon is a monumental commitment, often requiring months of preparation, countless hours of running, and meticulous attention to detail. However, one critical aspect that is frequently overlooked by novice runners is proper nutrition. Reflecting on Callum Parkinson’s early marathon experiences reveals key mistakes and areas for improvement that can significantly impact performance.

Early Mistakes in Marathon Nutrition

1. Inconsistent and Poor Diet

  • Lack of Nutritional Focus: Initially, a lot of runners believe that high mileage justified a lack of attention to diet. Meals are chosen based on convenience and taste rather than nutritional value. Common meals include sandwiches, pasta, and pizza, which, while high in carbohydrates, often lack essential nutrients and balance.

  • Race Day Breakfast: On race day, Callum’s breakfast was inconsistent and unplanned, sometimes consisting of Coco Pops or toast. This lack of a structured pre-race meal contributed to suboptimal performance.

  • Hydration Issues: Overhydration with water on the morning of the race without a balanced electrolyte intake led to potential imbalances that could affect performance.

2. Inadequate Training with Race-Day Nutrition

  • Unfamiliar Nutrition Products: Callum used sport chews (e.g., shot blocks) without adequate training. These were difficult to consume during the race, leading to issues with digestion and energy depletion.

  • Energy Depletion: By mile 20, Callum was severely depleted of energy, resorting to grabbing random food items handed out by spectators. This desperation highlighted a lack of a planned and practiced nutrition strategy.

Areas for Improvement and Actionable Adjustments

1. Developing a Consistent Nutrition Plan

  • Balanced Diet: Adopt a balanced diet rich in lean proteins, healthy fats, and a variety of vegetables. Focus on whole foods that provide essential nutrients needed for endurance training.

  • Structured Pre-Race Meal: Establish a consistent pre-race breakfast routine. A nutritious option like Mountain Fuels morning Fuel, consumed three hours before the race, can provide sustained energy and ensure proper digestion.

Mountain Fuel Integration

  • Morning Fuel: Start each day or pre-event with Morning Fuel, a nutritionally loaded formula combining high-quality proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. This helps maintain energy levels and supports digestion.

2. Practicing with Race-Day Nutrition

  • Regular Training with Race Nutrition: Incorporate the same nutrition products during training runs that will be used on race day. This practice helps the body adapt and reduces the risk of digestive issues.

  • Hydration Strategy: Balance hydration with electrolyte intake. Consuming water with electrolyte supplements can prevent imbalances and ensure proper hydration.

Mountain Fuel Integration

  • Xtreme Energy Fuel: Use Xtreme Energy Fuel during training runs for sustained energy. It’s designed to be easy on the stomach and provides a balanced combination of simple and complex carbohydrates, along with essential vitamins and minerals.

  • Hydrogel Sport Jelly: Incorporate Hydrogel Sport Jellies during long runs to maintain energy levels without causing digestive issues. These are perfect for mid-run energy boosts.

  • Ultimate Recovery Fuel: After intense sessions, use Ultimate Recovery Fuel to aid muscle repair and glycogen replacement. This ensures you are ready for the next training session.

3. Monitoring and Adjusting Diet

  • Avoid Junk Food: Avoid the temptation to consume junk food even when burning high calories. Eating a diet rich in nutrients supports overall training and recovery.

  • Weight Management: Keep an eye on weight and adjust food intake accordingly. Overeating can lead to weight gain and negatively impact performance, as experienced during a mid-training block where performance dropped due to poor diet choices.

Practical Steps for Improvement

  • Plan Ahead: Develop a comprehensive meal plan that includes balanced, nutrient-rich foods. Ensure that each meal supports training needs and recovery.

  • Consistent Pre-Race Routine: Practice the pre-race breakfast routine during long training runs. This consistency helps the body adjust and ensures that energy levels are optimized on race day.

  • Hydrate Wisely: Establish a hydration plan that includes electrolytes. Practice this during training to ensure it meets hydration needs without causing imbalances.

  • Regular Monitoring: Keep track of food intake, weight, and performance. Make adjustments as needed to ensure that dietary habits support training goals.

  • Educate and Adapt: Stay informed about nutrition and be willing to adapt based on what works best for the body. Continuous learning and adjustment are key to optimizing performance.

Insights and Reflections

  1. The Power of Proper Nutrition: Reflecting on the early mistakes, it becomes clear that proper nutrition is a cornerstone of successful marathon training. A balanced diet and consistent nutrition plan can significantly enhance performance and prevent energy depletion during the race.

  2. The Importance of Practice: Just as with running, practice is crucial in nutrition. Training with the same foods and hydration strategies planned for race day ensures the body is well-prepared and reduces the risk of unexpected issues.

  3. Mindset Shift: Understanding the impact of nutrition on performance necessitates a mindset shift. Recognizing that what is consumed directly affects energy levels, endurance, and overall health is vital for any serious runner.

  4. Action Steps for Runners

  • Remember: Acknowledge the critical role of nutrition in marathon training.

  • Understand: Learn about balanced diets and the benefits of specific nutrients.

  • Apply: Integrate nutritious foods and hydration strategies into daily and training routines.

  • Analyze: Monitor performance and adjust dietary habits as needed.

  • Evaluate: Continuously refine the nutrition plan to ensure it supports peak performance.


Proper nutrition is essential for marathon success. By learning from past mistakes and making informed, consistent choices about diet and hydration, runners like Callum Parkinson can optimize their performance and achieve their goals. Embrace the importance of nutrition, practice diligently, and make necessary adjustments to ensure a successful marathon experience.

See our in-depth marathon fueling plan here.

Want to try the jellies that helped Callum get his PB?

Try our taster pack here or get our complete taster pack which includes
everything Callum used and more to get his PB.

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