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June 11, 2018 0 Comments

For many people running a marathon is the greatest physical achievement of there life. And rightly so running the 26.2 deserves respect, regardless of whether you're running your first or your hundred and first Marathon!

With the right preparation though, a marathon is on the cards for almost anyone, this means not only having done the training and having the right kit but also having a solid nutrition plan in place.

This quick guide will give you all you need to know on how to fuel your best ever marathon.


Treat your Training Like Race Day 

One of the worst mistakes people make when it comes to marathon running is to try anything different on the big day. Instead use your training runs to develop a routine that works wonders for you and stick to it when you get to the start line. This way you can find which foods or drinks unsettle your stomach, when you’re close to home and not in the middle of a race with no portaloos around. The habits you form in training will be what you rely on to get you through those hard moments on race day, so start building them early. 

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TRAINING NUTRITION:

Everybody is different, we all come in a variety of shapes and sizes and just as importantly run at different paces. A 55kg woman looking to run the course in 2 hours thirty and battling to shave off each second, probably won't eat much at all while running, but a 90kg chap looking to break 4 hours would be foolhardy not to refuel throughout the race. 

So with that in mind look to use this plan as a template, try it out in training and tweak it to suit your needs. Keep what works and ditch what doesn't.

Breakfast: That old saying that 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day' is certainly true here, especially for all you morning runners. Just make sure that you eat something that you are very very familiar with and that will ensure you get out the door fuelled up and ready to go.

A popular option for a lot of runners is a moderate sized bowl of porridge (made with water) with crunchy peanut butter spooned through, a small coffee and 500ml of water.

If you aren’t running till later on in the day then just apply this template to whatever your pre run meal is.

Race Fuel: Being able to take calories on board while moving is vital to your success on the longer runs, but if you aren't used to eating and running it can take a little practice to get used to. So ensure that you practice it early on in your training cycle, that way it will be second nature by the time race day comes round.

Each hour that you’re out there running you want to be taking on roughly 0.5 - 0.6g of carbohydrate per kilo of body weight to ensure you’re adequately fuelled. For an 85kg runner that looks like a Flapjack every sixty minutes. The best way to keep track of this is to set a timer on your watch to go off every half hour as a reminder to eat half and drink (roughly 250ml).

Recovery: When you get on to the really long runs the temptation can be to either eat everything in sight or avoid food altogether. As with most things the best approach is found somewhere in the middle. Ideally you would get a balanced meal, relatively high in fats, protein and carbohydrate within 40 minutes of getting through the door. This often ends up as something simple like fresh noodles, salmon (with the skin on) and spring greens for me as it’s quick to make, easy to eat and appealing post run.

While food is important so is hydrating so make sure that you drink a liter of water within an hour of getting back, especially if its been hot out. Remember the quicker you recover, quicker you can get back out training again, so take it seriously.


BELOW IS AN EXAMPLE NUTRITION GUIDE TO FOLLOW AROUND YOUR TRAINING

Pre Training

During

Water

Don’t start thirsty. It’s just setting you up for a hard run. Drink at least a liter of water in the hours leading up to the run.

Losing more than 2-3% of your body mass through sweat can have drastic affects on performance. So keep your body topped up and drink little and often.

Fuel

If you know you have a big run coming up (over 10 miles) prime your body the day before by increasing your daily carbohydrate intake by 10%. 
Then the day of the run eat as you would before a race of that distance.

If you’re only doing a short run (5 miles and less) then your number one priority is staying hydrated as you should have eaten enough beforehand to fuel you. For the longer runs however, you need to eat. Take these opportunities to practice race day nutrition, aiming to take on 0.5 - 0.6g of carbohydrate per kilo of bodyweight per hour. Which works out at roughly one Flapjack every 60 minutes.

Recovery

Rest as hard as you run. If you had a tough run, take a little longer to recover, eat slightly more and drink plenty. On the other hand if you had an short and easy outing don’t go overboard on the post run refuel.

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RACE DAY NUTRITION


PRE RACE

26 miles is a really long way to go if you aren’t fuelled up properly and as the main fuel that your body will be using is carbohydrate it makes sense to ensure your stores are topped up.

While some folks are still touting the benefits of carboloading the week before the race, the science is still a little sketchy on whether it really works and for most people it leaves them feeling sluggish at best and sick at worst. Instead slowly add calories and carbs a couple of days before the race and then load up in the final 24 hours. Don’t use this as an excuse to eat anything and everything though, stick to foods you respond well to and aim for roughly 3-5g of carbs per kg (6.6 - 11g per lb) of your body weight (per day).

BREAKFAST

Try to eat breakfast 2-3 hours before the race, so that it has plenty of time to settle in your stomach. Ideally your race day breakfast would be the same as your normal pre long run breakfast, this though isn’t always possible on race day. So instead focus on good carb based foods which will fuel you round the course and that you respond well to. A perfect example of this would be a big bowl of muesli and yogurt, which contains everything you need, sits well with most people and can be made and eaten almost anywhere with little prep.

  

Dinner (night before)

Breakfast

Chicken and vegetable stir fry with plenty of rice or noodles.

A small portion of nuts and a piece of fruit.

A litre of water.

A piece of fruit.

Big bowl of muesli with yoghurt.

500 ml of water.

HYDRATION:

Never underestimate the importance of getting to that start line fully hydrated! It is without a doubt one of the most important factors to putting in your best performance. Ideally you want to be taking in between 500ml and a litre of water depending between waking up and crossing the start line, depending on the heat and humidity. In a perfect world this would come from 500ml with breakfast and another 500ml sipped throughout the build up.


DURING THE RACE

During Race

Water

Focus on matching your fluid input to your sweat output. If you are working harder take on a little more and if the sun goes away you can ease back a little on the fluid. For most this means consuming roughly 500ml of water each hour. Don’t drink it all in one go though as this can leave you feeling uncomfortable. Instead sip it as you go.

In most cases water will be more than enough, especially if you are fuelling with Chia Charge Sea Salt Flapjacks. But if it is particularly hot or you sweat a lot you might want to use an electrolyte drink as well.

Fuel

Once you're out on the course, your main focus should be on drinking enough and taking on enough carbs to keep the pace up. In the first 30 minutes of the race, you shouldn’t need to eat anything but as the race progresses you need to top up those carb stores. Follow the long run protocol you followed in training of 0.5 - 0.6g of carbohydrate per kilo of bodyweight per hour, now isn’t the time to change anything so use whatever you have been using in training.