Running a marathon is by definition an endurance test. It tests most peoples’ bodies to their physical limits. It therefore makes sense that without the right fuel it will become even harder for your body to perform and recover optimally. Understanding nutrition as a training and performance tool is key to a successful marathon. When training for a marathon it is not just what you eat to fuel your body and training but when you eat too. Aim to maximise and maintain glycogen stores for max performance. “Nutrient Timing” a key method to do this. Break your 24 hours down into 3 metabolic phases to fuel.
The 3 Phases of “Nutrient Timing” are
- Energy phase. 10mins prior to and during training/race.
- Studies have shown consuming both carbohydrate and protein together before, during and after can increase blood flow to the muscles, reduce glycogen depletion and counteract dehydration.
- This combination for nutrients helps to replenish muscle glycogen more rapidly than carbohydrate alone therefore minimising muscle damage and allows faster recovery. It also helps support the immune system.
- During exercise food/drink should be easily digestible and well-diluted. Consuming 60g-90g of carbs per hour.
- It is recommended that you trial food/drink combinations in your training runs, do not try anything new in the race as everybody reacts differently.
- Hydration – Dehydration is the biggest pitfall for marathon runners. Runners lose approx. 1ltr of water per hour through sweat. Drink 2 glasses of water in the morning when you are waking up. Another glass before you leave the house. From 10mins before the race you can start to drink sports drinks with sugars and electrolytes. It is better to take big sips at frequent intervals.
- Always start to take in energy shortly after you start running. Studies show that taking on energy at 15-20 intervals is more effective that taking on the same amount after 2 hours of exercise.
2. Anabolic phase. 30-45 minutes after your marathon/training.
- When your anabolic hormones help your body be most effective at replenishing its stores of glycogen and the repair and growth of tissue
- Eat approximately 1- 1.5 grams of carbohydrate per kg of your bodyweight and 10-15g of protein within the first 30-45 minutes after your marathon training. E.g. For a 55kg person 2 bananas (30g carb each) and protein bar.
3. Growth phase – Remainder of day, 45mins after exercise to 10mins before next session.
- As your anabolic hormones fall, it becomes important to focus on meals that contain smaller amounts of complex carbs (fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains) and slower digested proteins (meat and fish, low fat cheeses and dairy).
- Aim to meet you calculated daily carbohydrate requirements and 20g of protein per meal.
- Make sure you are eating enough!
- On the day of the race, breakfast is particularly important as your glycogen stores will have diminished over night.
- High levels of physical activity creates lowered immunity and oxidative stress, it is therefore very important obtain high levels of antioxidants through the diet to counteract this and reduce the risk of post event illnesses. Best source of antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables. Get at least your 5 a day!
If you are running the marathon but feel in the dark about you increased nutrition needs book in with me, Libby Limon, Nutritional Therapist at the Goswell Rd clinic for a one on one consultation. Contact reception to book.