Training for a marathon means a lot of miles on the road. However, a significant portion of your training should include what you plan to eat before, during and after your training runs. It will make all the difference come race day. And as with anything else race-related, it’s all about practice, practice, practice.
Here are a few tips to help you achieve nutritional success.
Nutrition during the run
- Hydrate properly. For training runs of an hour or shorter, you can hydrate with water. When runs are 90 minutes or longer, consider options for rehydration including gels, blocks and sports drinks. The most important thing to try different options during training runs at least several weeks in advance of the race. This way, you’ll learn which hydration options you tolerate best.
- Fuel up with the right meal for you. It is recommended that you eat a meal two hours before one of your long training runs. If you have gastrointestinal issues (GIs), back the meal by 15 to 20 minutes. If you don’t have GI issues, eat 15 to 20 minutes closer to the start of your training run. Continue to modify the timing until you find the time that YOUR BODY digests your pre-race meal well and you feel great when running. Keep in mind, on race day, you will be nervous and more prone to GI upset.
- Snack accordingly. Carbohydrates are key, and protein will help to sustain blood sugars, if you can tolerate them. Consider trying oatmeal, banana and peanut butter bread or toast, fruit, yogurt or energy bars, or any combination of these you can tolerate. Avoid foods that are high in fiber or fat.
- Eating during the race. This is, again, determined by what your body can tolerate. Whatever you do, stick to your plan on race day and do not be influenced by family, other runners, etc.
- Hydrate early in the race, even when you feel great; this is especially important in warm and humid weather.
- A good rule of thumb is to hydrate at each water stop and to practice sipping out of race cups while running, or to take walk breaks through water stops, so that you remain hydrated.
- Sports drinks, gels and blocks include a source of carbohydrates (sugar), electrolytes (sodium and perhaps potassium) and provide liquid (plan to drink water with gels or blocks).
- Call ahead to the race and ask what brand and flavor of sports drinks they are going to have so you can practice with that brand and flavor. If you can’t tolerate it, plan to bring your own on race day. A hydration belt is helpful, or you can depend on family to meet you with your hydration of choice at designated spots along the course.
- Post-race carbs/protein. After long training runs, try to consume a substantial carbohydrate/protein snack or drink within 15-60 minutes of the run. This time can be flexible but just try to eat/drink as soon as you are able. PROTEIN is important to help you recover for the next run or race. It can help sore muscles so try different products you know you will digest well. Great sources can include chocolate milk, protein drinks, a bagel with peanut butter or an energy bar.
- Nauseous? If you feel nauseous after your training run, you may need to eat and drink more during the actual run itself. It may seem difficult to eat or drink when you feel nauseous, but many times this is what your body needs.
- Eat a healthy and well balanced meal within two hours after a long run or race. This is important to the recovery phase of your training. If you are extremely sore after training runs, pay attention to your liquid intake during runs and consider including a source of protein after.
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