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Is Wheat or White Pasta Better for Marathon Training?

By Jeremy Hoefs

Marathon training requires a combination of running workouts including long runs and tempo workouts to help you run the 26.2 miles on race day. But another important component to your marathon training is nutrition. The traditional marathon training diet calls for the majority of your calories to come from carbohydrates, with pasta being a common source of whole grains and complex carbs. A common debate, however, is whether wheat or white pasta is better for marathon training.


The major difference between wheat and white pasta is the quality of the grains. White pasta uses refined grains that undergo a process of removing certain parts of the grain that also results in a loss of nutrients and fiber. Whole-wheat pasta contains more fiber and protein per serving and is digested more slowly than white pasta. Overall, wheat pasta is a better nutritional choice than white pasta during the majority of the marathon training program, but you may want to eat white pasta when you need a carbohydrate source that is digested quickly.

Carb Loading

Marathon runners follow a carb-loading approach to nutrition during race week and the day before the marathon. This temporary diet change calls for an increased carb intake that results in your body filling the muscle glycogen stores that supply energy as you run. While whole wheat pasta is consumed for the majority of the marathon training, it may be harmful for a marathon runner in the days before the race. The increased fiber may also cause an upset stomach that forces you to the bathroom during the race. Choose white pasta that is lower in fiber for carb-loading one to two days before the marathon.


Some marathon runners must follow a gluten-free diet, which prevents them from eating white or whole-wheat pasta. Runners with a gluten intolerance may have digestive-health issues with the wheat protein gluten, found in the pasta. In this case, gluten-free marathon runners can choose pasta substitutes made from corn, quinoa, or brown and white rice. These pasta substitutes provide more carbohydrates and less protein than traditional pasta but fulfill the nutritional requirements for a marathon runner.


Looking at the pastas in the grocery aisle can be overwhelming with the selection of traditional, fortified, multigrain, white and wheat pastas. A pasta blend, however, is made with various ingredients such as flax seeds, quinoa and brown rice. Flax seeds provide dietary fiber and healthy fats while the quinoa provides whole grains and a complete protein source. The pasta blend might be good for your post-workout meal if combined with a rich protein source such as chicken. Additional ingredients in the pasta blend supply extra vitamins and minerals to increase the overall nutritional content.

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