Nutrition tips for Marathon runners to digest
Remember to eat your greens : Fruit and vegetables are essential for you to get the vitamins, minerals and fibre that are essential for life and energy. Try to have five portions of fruit or vegetable per day and to vary your choices to maximise the range of nutrients.
Carb-up: Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred energy fuel and so form the basis of your pre-race nutrition. You will probably be tapering your training prior to the marathon, by eating the same amount of carbohydrates during this time, your glycogen stores will naturally be topped up. If you do not taper, its is important to have some carbohydrates at each meal as well as carbohydrate snacks mid morning, mid afternoon and before bed on the days leading up to the race.
Without carbs, you will find it harder to burn fat as a fuel and will lack the energy that you need to train well. If your carbs stores are low, you will break down lean muscle to use as energy which will lead to poor recovery
Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in your liver and muscles, and are broken down into sugar by your body for energy. Different carbohydrates break down sugar at a different rate. For long lasting energy, choose wholemeal varieties such as brown rice, sweet potato, oats, brown bread. A little high quality protein ( such as eggs which are easily digested) is also important, as the amino acid it contains provides energy which facilitates carbohydrate use. Stick to what you know is the golden rule when it comes to pre race breakfast. Again use your long runs to determine what works best for you.
Repair with protein : Protein is needed for the immune system, growth, repair and recovery of tissues but most people have more than enough proteins in their diet. Here we look at two different sources of protein.
Dairy: These foods are good sources of calcium, essential for strong bones, teeth, nerves and muscle contraction. Try to choose the low fat versions (healthier for your heart and contain more calcium)
Meat, fish and alternatives: These foods also include nuts, pulses, tofu, beans, corn and eggs. They are high in iron, essential for making haemoglobin, part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen around the body.
Keep hydrated: Not having enough fluid can cause headaches and make you feel lethargic and hungry when you really don’t need food.
- Having 500ml fluid at each meal.
- If necessary, add diluting juice to water or have tea, coffee or diet drinks during the day
- On race day, from when you wake up, sip 400-600ml of fluids until 30 minutes before the race. By drinking slowly you will be able to absorb the fluid more easily.
- One a recent race over in Berlin, we were given flat cola, its another good option to have, sip on it during the race as it contains caffeine.
Sugar contains energy but no other nutrients. For runners, they can be a great source of quick energy. For long runs like on marathon race day, regular top ups of jelly beans or fruit pastilles are a good idea to delay hitting the wall when the your glycogen has been used up and you start breaking down lean muscle for energy. The body can break down these sugars quite quickly. There are various specialist products available to help runners combat the wall from gels to bars. Always try these on your training runs to see which works best for you.