‘I’m a Paralympian and Dietitian, and Here’s What I Eat Before a Marathon’

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When Paralympian Susannah Scaroni went to grad schoolhouse to go a registered dietitian, her regular meals began to change. In particular, arsenic she publication much astir nan investigation down endurance sports nutrition, nan wheelchair jock started to eat a batch much carbs. And she quickly noticed a quality successful her performance: "I really property a batch of nan changes that I've knowledgeable since 2017 to moving toward a higher carb fare and training my gut to moreover beryllium amended and amended astatine a higher carb diet," she says.

Those "changes" see awesome victories: Gold successful nan 5000 meters astatine nan 2020 Tokyo Paraympics, and first-place finishes astatine nan Chicago, New York City, Boston, and Grandma's marathons.

Experts In This Article

  • Susannah Scaroni, RD, Paralympic wheelchair jock and registered dietitian

Ahead of lining up erstwhile again astatine nan TCS New York City Marathon, Scaroni—now an RD—gave Well+Good nan wrong scoop connected precisely what her marathon fueling scheme looks like.

The time before

Because wheelchair racing involves little effect than running, Scaroni says nan training involves precocious strength and precocious measurement nan mostly of nan time, which intends she beautiful overmuch ever follows a high-carb diet. So she only really starts to zero successful connected race-specific nutrition nan time before.

That starts pinch sipping connected carb-rich drinks: She intends for 80 ounces of fluid, including 32 ounces coming from a sports portion for illustration Gatorade.

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Although her pre-race meal is typically provided by title organizers, she likes to travel a spot of a formula. For carbs, she'll person immoderate rice, potatoes, aliases pasta. She'll besides see a thin macromolecule for illustration chickenhearted aliases fish. "And I don't debar excessively galore vegetables, but I'm not having a barren kale salad, for example," she says. "I'm trying to have a small little fiber, but immoderate cooked vegetables are ever nice." 

In bid to make judge she's not up each nighttime going to nan bathroom, she'll portion astir of her last fluids for nan time astatine meal truthful that she's besides taking successful immoderate electrolytes, for illustration sodium, to thief her clasp onto them. Then she'll conscionable person a mini solid of h2o erstwhile she's brushing her teeth.

"Sleep is conscionable arsenic important arsenic nutrition," she says. "And not having to usage nan restroom much times a nighttime is simply a large portion of that."

The greeting of nan race

Just for illustration immoderate different morning, Scaroni starts each title time pinch a big solid of water to rehydrate aft sleeping.

She usually eats meal a mates hours earlier training, but earlier a race—particularly 1 pinch tricky logistics for illustration nan New York City Marathon, which originates connected Staten Island—there whitethorn beryllium a fewer hours betwixt meal and nan start. So she'll person a bigger repast that includes analyzable carbs and protein, for illustration oatmeal and yogurt aliases peanut butter, possibly a Clif bar and Gatorade because she knows she has clip to digest it—and she doesn't want to extremity up quiet during nan race. Then she'll bring a Gatorade, Powerade, aliases Skratch Labs carbohydrate hydration operation pinch her connected nan autobus and successful nan shelter conscionable earlier nan start.

Coffee is besides a must. "What I love, if I person nan opportunity, is to bring my ain AeroPress. I usually usage astir 16 grams of beans and grind those up," she says. "Or, if I don't person that action and there's a java shop, I for illustration to get a reddish eye, which is simply a cup of java pinch a changeable of espresso successful it."

On nan course

Scaroni did her master's thesis connected fueling considerations for nan circumstantial needs of para athletes. Some person impaired GI functioning owed to a spinal cord injury, and even conscionable nan position that athletes return wrong their sports wheelchairs tin interfere pinch nan gastric system. Also, she points out: "Our hands are successful gloves, truthful conscionable nan enactment of eating needs to beryllium done a small spot much thoughtfully."

Scaroni's go-to strategy is filling up a CamelBak pinch 60 grams of carbs from her Skratch Labs hydration mix, past drinking it done a straw (mostly connected downhills erstwhile she doesn't person to usage her hands to push).

Her proposal to different marathoners

There's a classical saying successful running: Don't effort thing caller connected title day. And that applies to your marathon fueling plan, too. Scaroni suggests training pinch precisely what you scheme to eat during nan race, down to nan nonstop brands and flavors. "GI issues during moving are truthful prevalent, and I deliberation really benignant of trying to nail down what your assemblage tin tolerate while you're moving is simply a large point to completing nan marathon to nan champion of your ability," she says. 

Along those aforesaid lines, she suggests besides practicing that early breakfast, aliases aggregate mini meals, for illustration you'll person connected title day. And astir each that free Dunkin Donuts java successful nan commencement village: Only partake if you typically portion java correct earlier a run. "If [you've] ne'er had it before," warns Scaroni, "it's not needfully nan champion time of nan twelvemonth to effort it out."

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