Summary: Fuel up for your next marathon with a list of handy nutrition strategies designed to help you stay at your best.
26.2 miles.42 kilometres. The marathon – the modern day runner’s ultimate test of strength and endurance – is popular around the world. Runners from all backgrounds train with gruelling schedules to be in peak physical condition to take on the mighty marathon.
But what about nutrition? Just like stretching and rest days, your nutrition during training is vitally important to your success when you’re out there pounding the pavement. But for many, it’s a step that we’d rather ignore. If nutrition strategies send you running for the hills while you’re training for a half marathon or marathon, not to worry – by incorporating a few basic things into your routine you’ll be on the right track in no time…
In the run-up to your big race, it’s important to consistently eat balanced meals and get the nutrients you need to feel strong and energised. That’s not going to happen by magic – take some time to plan ahead.
You don’t need to set yourself unreasonable targets – for most runners, it’s about a few small changes rather than a complete overhaul of everything you eat on the day-to-day. If your diet is repetitive, try to mix things up a little.
And finally – think about your habits. Are you struggling to find the energy for your evening run? Aim to get the right variety of foods to give you the nutrient intake – you know, carbs, proteins, fats – you need for a good run.
Snacks for all
Research shows eating little and often is a good strategy for runners because it helps to avoid low blood sugar levels and tiredness. Get into the habit of snacking on small portions regularly.
Before you get excited, we’re not talking about dipping into a handful of crisps. Avoid high-fat snacks like chocolate and instead look for high-carb low-fat snacks for the best fuel. Plain popcorn, bananas fruit, and plain popcorn are all easy options.
While it’s important to snack, don’t do it at the expense of your mail mealtimes. This is where your major “carbo-loading” happens and will ultimately give you the strength you need to finish those last few miles.
Pasta is a favourite pre-run meal with runners, but things like rice, baked potatoes, lentils and baked beans are all good options too. Beware though: high-carb can also mean high fat. Carb dinners shouldn’t be an excuse for lasagne, thin-crust pizza or a nice buttery croissant. Save those for your feast after race day.
This one is a no brainer. H2O is your body’s most important nutrient – which is probably why it makes up more than half your bodyweight. Keep a bottle of water on hand with you at work or on the go throughout the day, and aim to down a pint of water roughly an hour before you head out to train. Then, when you’re on the road, aim for a half pint every half hour.
As a rule of thumb you should be drinking double the amount of water on run days than rest days.
Immediately after a race it’s important to refuel your body to stave of injury. The first initial hours following an intense training session is the crucial time when your body will replace what you’ve lost while you’re out there sweating it out.
But many runners report not feeling very hungry after a long run. You can work around this by snacking every 15 minutes rather than sitting down for a huge feast – it’ll help maintain higher blood glucose and insulin concentrations which will aid muscle healing. Look for high-carb food and drinks after the run, and also aim to have about 25 percent of that recovery food as a protein to aid recovery.
What are your nutrition strategies when training for a marathon?