Nutrition for Marathoners
Training for a 26.2 mile race starts months in advance of the actual event day. You might already have your training plan mapped out, what routes you're going to run, how many miles, what cross training you’ll do, and when your rest days will be. The real question is: what are you fueling your body with for the next few months? Your regular diet might not cut it, especially if it is low in protein. Something as small as eating before the race might make the difference between setting a new personal best or lagging behind the pack.
It’s important that you start to plan your meals in advance so you can see how much protein, carbs, fat, etc. you are taking in. Everybody is different, so you will need to consult with your doctor or a licensed dietitian to learn more about what your specific needs are, but the following tips are typically a good place to start.
To Eat or Not To Eat
Eating before you head out to train is the eternal question that runners will debate until the sun burns out. In general, it is best to eat 30-60 minutes before you train, with smaller snacks being the best option. Ideally it would be something that is a balance of protein and carbohydrates. It's also important that you have a recovery snack after your run, too. Aim to eat something within 30 to 45 minutes of completing your run.
Carbs Locked & Loaded
Race day is coming up, and you need to have a decent storage of energy if you’re going to make it to the finish line. Now is the time to get extra bread and pasta at dinner. Up your carb intake the week before the race. Carbs should make up about 75% of your diet until race day.
Where's the Beef?
Protein is vital to your diet. It helps feed your muscles and provides energy. If you’re not getting enough protein your muscles will essentially start to atrophy as your body tries to burn whatever it can to produce energy. If you’re worried about eating red meat, stick with chicken and salmon for a lean and healthy source of protein.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
It is vital that you make sure you are drinking enough water when you are training. Salt tablets can help you maintain your hydration levels when running long distances, pack some of those for when you train. If your electrolytes are unbalanced, try drinking a sports drink to help replenish them.
Typical Meals for Marathon Runners
Something light, like oatmeal with fresh fruit. This provides enough carbs and sugar to give you energy during your run.
During the Run
Gels, gummies, water, sports drinks, and pretzels. You are losing a lot of water so it is important to restore your hydration levels and balance out your electrolytes.
Yogurt with granola, a protein shake, or a power bar. You will want something that is light.
Protein, such as eggs, bacon, or sausage. Whole wheat pancakes, waffles, or cereal. You can have fruit if you are still hungry.
Grilled chicken or salmon salad with avocado, spinach, and tomatoes.
A smoothie or fresh fruit.
Heavy on carbohydrates. Grilled chicken with pasta or rice, sweet potatoes, and asparagus.
Almonds or peanuts, some source of protein that will help hold off any break down of muscle while you sleep.