Fueled for success: Essentia Health dietitian shares nutritional advice for Fargo Marathon

May 21, 2024  By: Caitlin Pallai

Stacy Koll

Stacy Koll ran the 2019 Fargo Marathon — her first — at age 39.

Despite a late start to her running career, Koll, a dietitian and nutrition services supervisor at Essentia Health St. Mary's-Detroit Lakes, has always been passionate about fitness and living a healthy lifestyle.

Stacy Koll

"I have four kids, so running kind of became my alone time and my stress-reduction time," she added. "I also like the structure and goals around training; I have something to work toward."

This year marks Koll’s fourth Fargo Marathon, and her goal is to qualify a second time for the Boston Marathon, which she ran in 2023.

"I like the atmosphere of the Fargo Marathon," she said. "The crowd support is great. You never feel like you’re alone and there’s always somebody cheering for you."

For those participating in Essentia Health Fargo Marathon activities this year, regardless of goals or distance, Koll offers some important nutritional advice when it comes to fueling before, during and after.


Leading up to your race, Koll recommends a diet consisting of half complex carbohydrates, a fourth of lean proteins and a fourth of vegetables.

Complex carbohydrates include sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, anything whole grain, pasta, cereal and rice. Good sources of lean protein include chicken breast, fish, lean pork chops and, if vegetarian, tofu.

"The longer you plan on running, the more carbohydrate load you will want for those glycogen stores," she explained. "If running a 5K, you won’t need as much stored as you do for something longer, like the half (marathon)."

Staying hydrated is also critical.

Stacy Koll

"A good estimate is to try and drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day leading up to and the day before the race," added Koll. "A bigger person will obviously need more than someone smaller, and depending on your metabolism and weather conditions, you may want to up your fluid intake."

For any runner, Koll’s message is clear – feed and hydrate your body correctly.

"If you've been preparing and putting in the miles, the last thing you want to do when you get on the course is fail because you're not fueled," she said. "It's like your car running out of gas. If you arrive on the course and you haven’t eaten or drank enough, your body is going to give out."

What runners eat the night before and the day of their race is very individualized. Regardless, Koll emphasizes that runners should never try something for the first time right before a race.

"Don’t experiment the day or morning of," said Koll. "Ideally, if you're training for a longer run, it’s a good idea to practice what you would eat the night before and that morning so you know what is going to work for you."

Koll recommends staying away from spicy and greasy food, fats, fiber and lots of caffeine.

"As important as it is to train and practice with your legs, it’s just as important to train with your stomach," she added.


According to Koll, runners shouldn’t need to consume anything during a race unless they plan on running for over an hour.

"It's recommended you get around 30 grams of carbs every 30 to 45 minutes past that initial hour mark," she said. "All kinds of gels and chews are available to runners; otherwise, some just choose fruit snacks or gummy candies."

Koll recommends hitting hydration stops often along the course.

"I like to alternate between the Powerade and water," she explained. "Especially if it’s warm out, you may need extra electrolytes. Taking a few sips often is generally tolerated better than a whole cup of fluid at a time.

"It’s important to stay hydrated during the race."


How you fuel your body once you're over the finish line is just as important.

"Eat that banana," emphasized Koll. "Post-race fueling should include a combination of protein, carbohydrates and lots of fluid throughout the day. Chocolate milk is a great combination of all three.”

And her final piece of advice? Keep moving.

"Even though you’re not going to want to, keep moving," she explained. "Keep drinking water. Your body will thank you."

Essentia Health is proud to serve as the sponsor of the 20th annual Fargo Marathon, North Dakota's pre-eminent health-related event. Marathon activities are scheduled from May 28 through June 1. The marathon, half-marathon and 10K races will be held on Saturday, June 1. To register and learn more about available races and activities, visit fargomarathon.com.

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