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Half Marathon Nutrition Guide

June 07, 2017

Half Marathon Nutrition Guide

Don’t underestimate a half marathon, the demands of running 13.1 are very real indeed. Whether you’re using it as a stepping stone towards a full marathon or looking to get the best time possible, nutrition is key to doing your best.

 


Train as you race - Race as you train.

If you take only take one point from this guide let it be this train as you aim to run. The habits you form in training will be what you rely on to get you through those hard moments on race day. Plus it’s always better to learn the hard way that certain foods or drinks unsettle your stomach, when you’re close to home than it does in the middle of a race with no portaloos around. Most of your training runs for a half will end up being less than 90 minutes, which means you can usually rely on just taking a drink and a flapjack out with you. The full 13.1 miles on the other hand will be different altogether and most runners find they need more to get what they want out of the run.


Training nutrition:

Everybody is different. We come in all shapes and sizes and just as importantly run at different paces. A 60kg woman looking to run the course in under 70 minutes probably won't eat anything at all while running, but a 90kg man who is looking to break 2 hours would be foolish to not take any calories on board midway. With that in mind use this plan as a guide, try it out in training and tweak it to suit your needs.  

Breakfast: As the old adage goes breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that doesn’t change here, especially if you run in a morning. Eat something that you are very familiar/comfortable with and that will ensure you get out the door fueled up and ready to go. My go to 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 in the day then this template will work for 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 it can take a little practice to get used to it. 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 fueled. What that looks like in the real world for a 85kg runner is 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: After a big run the temptation is often to either to want to eat the world or nothing at all. Whereas in reality 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. I also make sure that I drink a liter of water within an hour of getting back. 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 10k) 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 (5k 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

13.1 miles is a long way to go if you aren’t fuelled properly and the main fuel you’ll be using is carbohydrate so load up on it: While some people preach the benefits of loading up on carbohydrates the week before, for a half marathon this is; largely unnecessary and can just upset your stomach. Instead load up in the 24 hours before the race. 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.

Breakfast

Eat breakfast 2-3 hours before the race. In an ideal world you would 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. A perfect example of this would be a big bowl of granola and yoghurt, as it contains everything you need, responds 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 granola with yoghurt.

500 ml of water.

Hydration:

Getting to the start line fully hydrated is one of the most important factors to getting the most out of your race. Between waking up and crossing the start line you want to aim to drink 500ml-1000ml of fluid. 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 drinking the same as what you sweat. For most this means 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 fueling 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.