Now you have decided to run a marathon, got a training schedule to follow and your best running shoes for the training. What you need right now is a marathon training nutrition plan to maximize the effort and result of your training. Dedicated training coupled with proper nutrition are the keys to take you to the finish line of your marathon race.
While most runners concern about nutrition on the race day before, during and after marathon, it is equally important to consider for the training especially the long run sessions.
Why Is Nutrition Plan Important?
Training for a marathon is vigorous, you are depleting more than in your normal daily life before the training. So it makes sense to consume more to replenish your body. The basic purpose of training is to build strength and endurance of your body and mind. You need to take in the right nutrition for this purpose.
What Food Do You Need?
Before diving into what nutrition are best for you during the training, it is important to learn from what we teach our children: a balanced diet. No single type of food or nutrition can bring you a healthy body and well-being mind. You should bear in mind of the key nutrition needed for your training before the race.
Carbohydrates – this is the main source of energy to fuel your body during the training period, as well as replenishing your glycogen storage in the body. Consume complex carbohydrates as the energy they provide to the body can last longer. Typical complex carbohydrates are pasta, bread, cereal, peas, beans, oatmeal, brown rice. Simple and refined sugar should be avoided in the training as they have less or no nutritional value.
Protein – it is needed for repairing and building your muscles. It is advisable to consume more protein during your training than that before. Typical high protein food include chicken breast, lean meat, tuna, cottage cheese, eggs.
Fat – fats are vital to the body in storing energy, insulation, and protection of vital organs. Turning fat into energy is not as efficient as glycogen. They are your backup fuel to burn when glycogen storage has depleted and before using carbohydrates stored in the muscle. Consume healthy, unsaturated fats rather than saturated and trans fat. Typical healthy fat include fatty fish, avocado, nuts, and chia seeds.
Water & Minerals
You perspire during running to cool the body. Sweat contains mostly water and a small amount of salts. Losing water too much can affect significantly on your running performance as well as recovery after the run. Do not drink only when you are thirsty as it is too late. Drink 200 ml of water before running and regularly along the course especially for long runs or in hot weather.
Some studies indicate the average sweat per hour of exercise is 0.8 to 1.4 litre. However, everyone is different, and it depends on various factors including the type of exercise, intensity, weather. You can take it as a reference initially and spread refilling by 3 to 4 times for every hour. Check the color of your urine after running, if it is darker than normal, it is a good indication of dehydration. You should then replenish to restore and consume more in your next run.
Another useful method is to weight your body before and after the training, and record the water you consumed in between. The net reduction of weight is the loss of water that you need to restore.
It is also important to replenish electrolytes with sports drink or electrolyte capsules after training. Drinking too much water without replenishing electrolytes can lead to hyponatremia, or water intoxication which is serious and can be fatal.
Start Early In The Training
While a well-balanced diet is the rule, it varies with the runner himself, the pace, the course and the weather. You should start early in the training schedule. The purpose is to find out what works best for you so you can plan and prepare well for the race day. Some food can make you uncomfortable and some make you feel satisfied after eating or drinking. Find out what works and stick to it.
Take record of the food and water intake in the first 4 weeks of training as the baseline. When the intensity of training increases during the build up phase in week 5 to 13, consume more portion of protein to build and repair your muscles. Gradually restore to normal proportions during the tapering phase until the final week before the race.
The Importance Of Long Runs
Once you get your marathon training schedule, you should notice there are sessions of long run on weekends. The reasons for long run is, of course, build up your strength and endurance to peak at your race day. Another reason is to simulate your race day so you can prepare well beforehand.
Remember, once you step on the starting line, you are going towards the finish line with only what is provided in the feed stations and with what you carry, and nothing else. It is important that you know what type of food, how much to carry with you, what to carry them with, and when to consume in the course. Most food are easier to ingest and work best with water, consume often whenever you approach the feed station and drink water or sports drink together with the food.
It’s good to know what types of fluid and food are provided at feed stations along the course. However, don’t rely solely on them as some food may not suit you and make you uncomfortable. I have experienced undersupply of food and even water in the feed station at the later part of the course, where runners are desperately expecting them. If there is no water in the station, don’t be afraid to ask the staffs, some may have a few bottles for their own use that they will give you.
Glycogen is the most ready form of energy source to fuel you in the run. Consume more complex carbohydrate and less protein and fat 2 to 3 days before race day to fill your muscles and liver with glycogen, so you have the fuel to run farther and avoid hitting the wall in the race.
Again, preparation is the key, rehearse carbo loading during the long runs in week 11 and 13 to get used to it, then repeat 2 to 3 days before the race day.
Getting the right nutrition is as important as training for successfully crossing the finish line of your marathon race.
Record your nutrition in first 4 weeks as baseline, gradually increase and adapt to a well-balanced diet with complex carbohydrate as the main source, increase the portion of protein to build and repair your muscles, and a small portion of healthy fat during week 5 to 13. Carbo load at 2 to 3 days before the race with mainly complex carbohydrate to peak your glycogen store, so you have the fuel to run longer in the race. And remember the importance of replenishing water and electrolytes.
While there is a high variety of nutrition to choose, find out what works for you by rehearsing in the training especially the long runs. Prepare well on what you carry and plan for when to consume in the race. Sticking with the familiar will ease your mind and avoid the unexpected happening, so you will safely cross the finish line of your marathon race.