What to eat on heavy training days

Nutrition plan for heavy training days: two or more training sessions or a long, endurance-based session

Increase the carbs

Roast chicken thighs with brown rice & salsa verde in a white dish with orange cutlery

Your intake of carbohydrate should be raised on these days and, as a general rule, a serving should be included at all main meals to top up muscle glycogen (fuel) levels. Our roast chicken thighs with brown rice & salsa verde is a great healthy option.

Snacks can also be used to support high levels of training. Higher-GI carbohydrate snacks mid-morning or mid-afternoon can be a useful tool to increase overall energy intake, or go for a quick pre-training snack.

The priority here is to increase carbohydrate intake as the body’s main fuel, but don’t forget to maintain both protein and polyunsaturated fat intake with each meal as well. Be sure to include an evening snack containing protein, as this is vital to help your body recover from a heavy training day and assist muscle growth overnight. This is when a large amount of growth and repair will occur in the muscles. You can find ideas in our high-protein snack recipes.

Check out our list of the top fitness foods.

Other important nutrients

Blueberry baked oats in a bowl with nut butter

Up your fluid intake to compensate for sweat losses during training and stick to tried and tested foods before setting out on a long or intense workout. It’s best to avoid foods that may cause gastrointestinal issues, such as spices, fatty or very high-fibre foods.

Selecting fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants, such as blueberries, or dietary nitrate may offer further benefit to the muscles during training and recovery.

Meals for heavy training days

Breakfast options:
Cinnamon buckwheat pancakes with cherries
Blueberry baked oats
Good-for-you granola

Morning snack options:
Cinnamon berry granola bars
Banana yogurt pots

Lunch options:
Falafel burgers
Chicken & broccoli pasta bake
Quick chilli bean wraps

Afternoon snack suggestion:
Instant frozen berry yogurt

Dinner options:
Spanish rice & prawn one-pot
Lamb with buckwheat noodles & tomato dressing
Chicken, sweet potato & coconut curry

Evening snack suggestions (optional):
Protein shake

More training & nutrition tips

All our marathon meal plans
Health benefits of exercise
Best exercise for weight loss
See our marathon nutrition hub
How to hydrate properly
What is carb-loading?

Are you training for an event this year? What have you found most challenging and do you have any top tips to share? We’d love to hear from you below…


These meal plans were last updated on 12 December 2023.

James Collins is recognised as a leading performance nutritionist through his work with Olympic and professional sport. Over the last decade he has worked with Arsenal FC, the England and France national football teams and Team GB. He has a private practice in Harley Street where he sees business executives, performing artists and clients from all walks of life. He is the author of the new book The Energy Plan, which focuses on the key principles of fuelling for fitness.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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