Top 4 Nutrition Tips When Training for a Marathon
As we begin the competitive season for recreational distance runners, they are busy buying new shoes, registering for races and creating training plans. If this is you, don’t forget the importance of nutrition to bring success both during training and on race day. Here are the top four things you should do to fuel yourself to your next PR.
1. Prepare: Eat before you run
If you are running for longer than 45-60 minutes, you need to eat something before you run. This pre -workout snack should provide carbohydrate to fuel exercising muscles as well as protein to slow down the absorption of the carbohydrate and protect muscle from too much breakdown. Carbohydrate comes from food such as whole grains, fruit and dairy and is the body’s main source of energy during exercise. If you are worried you will not tolerate food, start with carbohydrate only and add small amounts of protein over time. About 60-90 minutes before your next training run, try the following:
- Glass of nonfat milk + a banana
- Toast + nut butter + an apple
- Scrambled eggs + whole wheat bagel
- Oatmeal made with nonfat milk + fresh berries
2. Recover: Eat after you run
Eat something within the first 60 minutes or so post-run to help replenish the used carbohydrate as well as assist with muscle clean-up and recovery. This may be a snack or a meal, depending on what time of day you run. Try one of the following:
- Snack: Glass of low-fat chocolate milk
- Snack: Trail mix of nuts and dried fruit
- Meal: Smoothie made with Greek yogurt, fruit and chia seeds + a bowl of whole grain cereal with low-fat milk
- Meal: Grilled chicken + a slice of cheese rolled into a whole wheat tortilla + a side salad topped with an oil-based dressing
3. Protect: Eat during your run
If you will be running longer than 90 minutes, you need to incorporate fuel during your run, starting at around 45 minutes in. Focus on carbohydrate-rich foods because carbohydrate is your muscle’s main source of fuel during exercise. Try a gel, gu or sports drink if you prefer products or raisins, fig bars or pretzels if you prefer food. Aim for around 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour of running.
4. Rehydrate: Increase your intake of fluids
Runners tend to be chronically dehydrated. As you increase your mileage, realize that your overall hydration needs increase too. Train your stomach to tolerate more fluid during running by slowly increasing your fluid intake over time on those long runs. But don’t forget about fluids outside of training too. Aside from plain water, flavored waters, coffee, tea and a cold glass of milk all make great hydration beverages! Remember that chocolate milk is a great option for after runs too.
Preparing for a running race takes time and effort. Improve your preparation, performance and recovery by following the four nutrition tips above.