Training for a marathon includes training your intestinal tract as well as your muscles. Here’s how to enhance your ability to enjoy both the long training runs and the marathon itself. Be sure to start experimenting with these winning nutritional strategies.
- Choose grain-based foods, as well as fruits and veggies, on a daily basis to fuel-up and refuel your muscles during training. These carbohydrate-rich foods get stored in your muscles as glycogen. When your muscles are depleted, you will feel needless fatigue. While low-carb protein shakes and salads with grilled chicken may taste great and fill your stomach, they leave your muscles unfueled. Hence, you want to focus your meals on oatmeal, whole grain bread, brown rice, sweet potatoes and other nutrient-rich grains, fruits and veggies. And believe it or not, these carbohydrates are not fattening!
- Rest days (with very little exercise) are an important part of a training program. Your muscles need to time to store the carbohydrates and get fully refueled after long runs or hard training sessions.
- No last minute dieting. The best-fueled runner will have greater stamina and endurance than the dieter who may be a few pounds lighter but is sub-optimally fueled.
- Drink enough fluids. You are well hydrated if you are urinating frequently (every 2 to 4 hours). The urine should be light in color and of significant volume.
- Experiment during your long training runs to learn which foods settle best. Some popular pre-run choices include: cereal with low fat milk, oatmeal, bagel with a little peanut butter, toast, bananas, and energy bars.
- Include enough fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains to promote regular bowel movements, but not too much fiber or you’ll endure undesired pit stops.
- Figure out through trial and error how much to eat the morning of long runs, as well as on marathon morning. You’ll need this fuel to feed your brain as well as your muscles. Note to Boston Marathoners: The Boston Marathon starts at 10:30 (or later for many of the runners), so you’ll have time for both breakfast and a pre-marathon snack/second breakfast.
- Drink sports drinks during long runs, as well as the marathon. You’ll have greater stamina and endurance if you consume more than just zero-calorie plain water. If you prefer water, boost your energy intake by consuming some type of carbohydrate: defizzed cola, hard candy, chunk of energy bar, banana, dried pineapple, and other easy-to-chew and digest foods that you can tuck in a pocket or have friends hand you along the way. Your muscles welcome this fuel; it does indeed get used along the route!
- The slower you run, and the bigger your body, the more fuel you will need. Depending on your body size and tolerance, you should target at least 150 to 250 to 350 calories per hour (after the first hour) to avoid hitting the wall. Again, you have to experiment pre-marathon to determine what settles best.
Eat wisely and well, and enjoy a spectacular run!
For more information:
Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook
Nancy Clark’s Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions.
Available at www.nancyclarkrd.com.
Sports Nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD counsels both casual and competitive runners at her private practice in Newton MA (617-795-1875).