What to do & eat during Tapering Weeks before the upcoming Marathons 21/03/2014

You’ve trained for the last 3-4 months through the storms of Narnia & ran through the hurricanes of the British winter weather. You’ve run around 20-40 miles per week, hours upon hours and eaten so much food that Weight Watcher members would hate you. And now you have to taper! So what do you do for food while you taper and prepare for race day? How much? When? What? Will the classic chicken and pasta do? Here I write about what you should be eating & give you some ideas, because I can’t stand boredom!


1. Overload on Carbohydrates in every single meal

As you probably know carbohydrates (CHOs) are the main source of energy for long distance running. During these tapering weeks you need to keep your glycogen stores in your muscles stocked up. For example, when working, climbing stairs, looking after your kids & running you will use some of the CHO stores in your muscles. If you don’t eat CHOs in every meal you aren’t able to keep the stores topped up for race day. This prepares yourself well for race day and essentially keeps your battery at 100%, or near enough!


2. Listen to your body, don’t just stuff yourself at any opportunity

When you are hungry, eat. When you are not hungry don’t be greedy. You don’t want to put on too much weight and have to roll through the 26.2 miles.  You need to eat enough to stock up your glycogen stores and help heal the muscle fibres which have been damaged over the hundreds of miles of training. You will put on maybe 2-4 lbs over the tapering weeks due to less activity & stocking up on food, don’t worry about this if it does happen as its not the worst thing that can happen. Get out of any snacking habits before your runs, because you are not running as much. So, having that peanut butter sandwich before a 20 miler isn’t necessary because you won’t be running 20 miles in your tapering weeks. On the other hand, don’t ignore your stomach moaning and groaning at you. Have a snack, drink water or have cooked meats. On the note of snacking…


3. Snack to keep yourself topped up

As mentioned before you will do some activity regardless of intensity that will expend some energy, training or not. You may be unable to access a meal or be too time restricted to sit down and have a meal. Snacking on the right food will help avoid any crashes in energy levels that you can do not need. Bring snacks with you, prepare them so it is easy for you to eat at work etc. Snack on dried fruit, berries or a jam sandwich. Use tupperware for storage, and give yourself time to plan it.


4. Eat Protein

Before you even think about it, no you won’t turn into a body builder by eating protein! See my last post ‘The Importance of Strength Training’. You need protein  to help the healing process of muscles for race day. You’ve just spent the last 3-4 months training hard, getting injured, waking up with DOMS and walking like John Wayne. Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair.

Eat 1.5-1.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight . To help you to calculate how much you need, I’ll provide a male & female example:

To convert from pounds (lbs) to kg, divide current weight by 2.2

Example male weight 170 pounds, 170/2.2 = 77.3kg

Example female weight 150 pounds, 150/2.2 = 68.2kg

To find out how much protein you need:

Weight in kg multiplied by the recommended protein intake.

Example male: 77.3kg X 1.6g of protein = 123.68g of protein to be consumed per day by a 77.3kg (170lb) male runner

Example female: 68.2kg X 1.6g of protein =  109.12g of protein to be consumed per by by a 68.2kg (150lb) female runner


Sources: Almonds, chicken breast (not KFC), grass fed beef, low fat yoghurt, wild salmon, lentils, beans, pulses, mackerel, cottage cheese and quinoa to name a few.


5. Don’t try anything that you haven’t tried before!

Don’t try to eat, drink or do anything new in the tapering weeks. Stick to simple, tried and tested foods that work for you. The last thing you want other than an injury is to feel unwell or upset your stomach as you prepare. This includes race day.


6. Eat Anti-inflammatory foods, yes there is such a thing!

Anti-inflammatory foods keep your gut healthy and provide anti-oxidants to muscles that are stressed. Running can hurt. You have probably picked up an injury or 10 & seen a Sports Injury Therapist to reduce the pain. To help yourself (personally I think every sports person should do this) eat anti-inflammatory foods instead of chewing on Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs like Ibuprofen are used to ease pain, so many would consume some when they feel pain or are about to push themselves hard in an activity.


Taking NSAIDs can cause stress on the kidneys and have a negative impact on their ability during long runs. Consuming NSAIDs pre-race can provide an imbalance in electrolytes. Electrolytes are a medical term for salts or ions. They are important for nerve and muscle function & are lost through sweat. An imbalance in these can work against your performance on race day. Anti-inflammatory foods are a healthier option comapred to eating NSAIDs. Here are some suggestions:


Blueberries, broccoli, turmeric, wild salmon, butternut squash, ginger root, dark leafy greens, peppers, tomatoes, beetroot and raspberries.


What I am doing in my Tapering Weeks

– Planning my food to take it with me when I work, so that I have control over what I eat

– I’m having ice baths, Sports Massages & chilling out in the sauna to get my muscles and body near to 100% condition as possible

– Running well. Every run I do, I want to do it well with technique and pace. I want to feel good afterwards, rather than shattered and unable to walk properly

– Recovery walks

– Getting at least 8 hours sleep to recover

– Booking in with Gregory Bailey, Chiropractor at West Wickham Chiropractic to make sure I have no other hidden issues. And to get rid of any tightness or stiffness

– I will be swimming to help with stiffness of joints and an alternative mode of training

– As I am training for an Ultramarathon, I am going to the gym 2-3 times a week to strengthen weaknesses & support the training so far. Nothing too intense to the point where I have DOMS for days afterwards.


I hope this post has given you some insight into what to do when you aren’t supposed to run so much in the tapering weeks. Right now, I’m preparing to go on a 13 mile run in preparation for race day. Running at this time in the morning is good preparation for the race!


Very last bit of advice…Trust your training!



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