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Eat and Drink

NYC Marathon: What the pros eat

When you think of the marathon diet, carb-loading typically comes to mind. And while there are plenty of bowls of pasta consumed the night before the 26.2-mile race, there’s more to it than that. We asked experienced runners and athletes participating in the NYC Marathon this Sunday what their diet is like pre-, during and post-race.

Luke Bongiorno, 40, Upper West Side

Orthology and NY SportsMed physical therapy director running
Photo Credit: iStock

Orthology and NY SportsMed physical therapy director running on behalf of Back on My Feet in his fourth marathon

Night before: "Before the marathon it's important to eat a meal with carbohydrates and protein. I'm planning to eat some pasta with chicken and vegetables. I also make sure not to eat too late in the evening and at least three hours before bedtime as I don't want the digestive process to interrupt my sleep. It's also important to hydrate. I like to drink plenty of water and herbal tea the night before a race."

Morning of: "I plan to eat a bagel with honey and sliced banana for breakfast. This will give me some lasting energy for the race without loading up my system with difficult to digest foods. When I get to Staten Island I may have a little bit of fruit salad from one of the tents. As the night before, it's important to hydrate the morning of the race as well. I make sure to drink water throughout the morning and then I'll sip on an electrolyte drink like Gatorade on my way to the race."

During the race: "I'll take advantage of the water stations when I'm thirsty and plan to consume an electrolyte drink at mile 16. I'll have a banana at mile 20 and Shot Bloks [energy gel] along the way as well."

Post-race: "Anything tastes good after the marathon! But chocolate milk is a great immediate recovery drink as it has protein and sugar to help with muscle recovery. Later on I'll have a meal of meat and carbs. I usually get together with a group of friends and have a steak with potatoes and vegetables. I'll also have an orange juice because it increases absorption of the iron in the steak. I may also have a stout beer like Guinness."

Liza Howard, 27, East Harlem

Henwood's Hounds team member running in her fifth
Photo Credit: iStock

Henwood's Hounds team member running in her fifth marathon

Night before: "Most runners will say don't eat anything new or different, it's usually a pretty simple, boring meal. I love sweet potatoes, so I will definitely be having those. And probably some sort of protein, like roast chicken or steak. I'll go easy on the fiber."

Morning of: "I will probably be waking up around 4:30 a.m. Last year I had a small snack when I woke up and packed breakfast to take on the bus. I'll probably do something similar again. I had banana and peanut butter when I woke up, and on the bus some porridge and yogurt and fruit. And I had half an energy bar right before I got to the start line. You get so nervous so you're not that hungry, but you have to eat enough to it can fuel you for the whole race."

During the race: "It's something that I'm playing around with. I used to not be able to stomach the gels at all. I'm still not a big fan. Originally I did these gummy chews. This year I started trying to practice with gels again, I found a couple that I can force myself to swallow, and one of them had caffeine, that gives you a little bit of a boost. The texture is kind of sticky, it's very unpleasant, but it's the easiest thing to swallow when you're running. It's so hard to chew anything, so at least with the gels you can get carbs without having to chew. Lately I've been using Clif Shot Bloks [Energy Gel]."

Post-race: "I try to eat something fairly soon after I finish. One of my issues after a big race is that I don't have much of an appetite, it makes you feel a bit nauseous. Usually it's just something like a Lara Bar and a piece of fruit. But usually later in the day my appetite comes back. I want to find a really good hamburger -- that’s on my list for after the race."

Meb Keflezighi, 40, San Diego

Elite runner, Olympic medalist and PowerBar Athlete running
Photo Credit: iStock

Elite runner, Olympic medalist and PowerBar Athlete running his 22nd marathon

Night before: "My main dinner, if I can have it, is usually pasta. I really like to have red sauce with meatballs. Whole wheat pasta will be ideal. Maybe a banana for calcium. My mom is coming, I'm pretty sure she'll bring some homemade bread. I usually have that in my room and buy honey almond butter and make a sandwich with that. If I happen to wake up at 1, 2, 3 o'clock, I'll definitely eat the bread, or otherwise a bagel, whole wheat preferably, in the middle of the night."

Morning of: "I always have a PowerBar in my bag, just in case I feel hungry two hours before, I can always take the gel."

During the race: "Come the race, I usually have three bottles of PowerBar gel, starting at 15, 18 and 21 miles. I rely on those to give me a boost of energy."

Post-race: "Afterward, I don't feel like eating anymore, my stomach is just overworked. But I usually have a shake to make sure I recover -- you really need the sugar right away. Then I like to have hot tea, if it's a cold day, a couple of hours later. For dinner usually I have steak. Preferably I'll have something with eggs or an omelet. All I'm thinking about right now is recovering."

Michael Meliniotis, 43, Upper East Side

Mile High Run Club coach running his 13th
Photo Credit: iStock

Mile High Run Club coach running his 13th marathon

Night before: "I will eat a balance of carbs and protein, limiting my vegetable intake. For my carbs I’ll eat white pasta, because it is lower in fiber and easier to digest than whole grain. This ensures no stomach distress the next morning. I eat a few cups of plain pasta. No spice, no sauce, no risk! I keep a plant-based diet so I don't eat meat. For my protein I’ll have grilled tofu, also plain. As a side I'll have some sweet potato for extra carbohydrate, which will be stored as extra energy for the next morning."

Morning of: "I'll be starting the race at 9:50 a.m. Since I'll be waking up at 4:30 a.m. I'll need two breakfasts! The first breakfast will be at 4:45 a.m. and will be instant oatmeal because I find processed food easier to digest on race day. I'll also have half a plain bagel with peanut butter. I'll drink a cup of black coffee and begin sipping water. My second breakfast will be a banana and a sports bar."

During the race: "I'm extremely strict about my race nutrition. I know what works for me. Fifteen minutes before, I will eat one sports gel and take one dose of electrolyte pills with water. Every 45 minutes in the race I consume one gel. Every 60 minutes I take a dose of electrolyte pills. I sip water at every water station with the intention of taking in 6 oz. every 20-30 minutes. I drink slightly less than most runners, but it works for me."

Post-race: "I will eat salty pretzels and a banana to start replenishing carbs and sodium as soon as possible. I'll begin rehydrating with water and take a protein recovery shake as soon as I get to my bag. When I get home I'll hunt down carbs like a vegan predator."


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