If you’re following in order, at this point you’ve read about how to warm up, conditioning, and the three types of runs you should be doing as part of your marathon training.
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Don’t Forget Nutrition in Marathon Training
It’s easy to think that to run a marathon you just need to get your training right.
Don’t underestimate the importance of what you eat and drink. Getting your nutrition right can make all the difference in how your run will feel, and how you recover.
Take it from one of our clients:
“Training for my last marathon, I felt exhausted in the two or three days after my long run. This time around I’ve focused on nutrition, making sure I eat properly after each training session and it has made a huge difference.”
You wouldn’t expect to run a car without petrol, would you? Or not fill up after a long road trip and expect to drive it on fumes?
Likewise, your nutrition choices during your training will make the difference between being replenished and repaired, or feeling heavy, drained, and exhausted.
Your Nutrition Building Blocks
Your body needs the right fuel to work at its best. And good nutrition = optimum fuel.
If we temporarily ignore vitamins and minerals (which are important), we can pretty much categorise nutrition in terms of carbohydrates, fats, and protein.
Carbohydrates are converted to glycogen in the body and stored around the muscles to be used as fuel. When you’re training for a marathon, you’re trying to teach your body to burn (proportionately) as much fat as possible, but you will always be using up your glycogen stores.
If you run out of stored carbohydrate (glycogen), your body slows everything down, even turning to your muscle protein to create fuel (which is extremely inefficient).
On your runs, and long run especially, your body likely uses up its stored carbohydrate. If you don’t make sure you replenish it, not only will you feel tired in the days after you run, you may not have enough to train at the level you need on your next one.
Protein intake is important after training because it helps your muscles repair.
Do NOT forget about fat, either – good fat is important to support healthy joints and organs, and shouldn’t be excluded from a healthy training diet.
The Magic 2 Hours
Right after you train, your body’s ability to replenish your muscles with carbohydrate is temporarily higher – highest at 30 minutes, then 2 hours, and slowly tapers off.
Eating a high-GI snack within 30 minutes that includes carbohydrate and protein will help you capitalise on the increased uptake.
Not to worry if real food doesn’t seem doable so soon after – a protein smoothie is perfectly fine.
The next aim is to have a main meal with a hearty serving of carbohydrates within 2 hours after your training session.
In our nutrition guide, you can find formulas for every meal, as in, how much carbohydrate, fat, and protein you should be including, AND sample recipes/combinations for meals using those formulas.
We also have a nutrition planner, so if you’re the planning type you can map out your meals around your training schedule.
Refuelling While You Train
Especially for your longer runs, you’ll want to bring along some glucose to help replenish your blood sugar while you’re running.
Isotonic sports drinks or energy gels with water can be a great way to top up while running.
You may want to try a few different sports drinks, as some people find the combination of running and energy drinks can, well, create unfortunate situations for their digestive system.
Important! Don’t drink super-sugary drinks in an effort to replenish your carbohydrate. Where the concentration of sugar in a drink is too high (hypertonic), it can actually dehydrate you. Your body pulls water from your tissues to dilute the sugar concentration.
Iso or hypotonic all the way 🙂
A post about nutrition wouldn’t be complete without touching on carb loading.
If you haven’t heard the term before, it simply means eating enough carbs to load up on glycogen stores ahead of marathon day (or any event).
The truth is, you don’t NEED to try and stuff in a load of carb-heavy meals. If you’ve been eating the right amount of carbs to support training, you can keep eating at those levels in the last 3 weeks before your race and you’ll naturally be carb loading.
Why you ask?
The last 3 weeks before your marathon is your tapering period, and you’ll not be running the same number of miles or at the same intensity as you had been up to that point.
If you keep eating the same amount of carbs as you were when you were training more intensely, you’ll naturally be storing up carbs ahead of the big day.
Your Action Step
Your action item this week comes in two parts – one is a reflection and one is an action.
Take a minute to think about how you’ve been feeling after your training runs, and what your nutrition has been like. Do you feel heavy or tired in the day or two after? Have you been having a snack right after you train, and a meal within two hours?
Get out a piece of paper and write down 5-6 snacks you can have right after you train – protein shake, smoothie, yogurt and banana, etc.
Look at your training schedule and add into your training a time for one of the snacks, and a time for a meal. Bring the snack with you (or have it ready for when you get home). Follow that plan, and check how you feel the day after you train, now that you’re refuelling yourself.
I’d love to know in the comments, do you make sure you have a snack after you train? And a meal? And if you don’t, how do you feel the day or two after your long run?
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This post is part of our 3m2m marathon training series. If you’d like to receive these straight to your inbox and in order, click here to sign up and you’ll get an email every week with a new piece on a different aspect of marathon training.
This post has been drawn from our 3 Months to Marathon Nutrition Guide, by Katherine Creighton Crook with Michel Glendinning from Thrive Fitness. Click here if you’d like to purchase the nutrition guide, or here if you’d like to purchase the nutrition planner, or click here to purchase from Amazon Kindle.
If you’d like to browse the 3 Months to Marathon range of packages including massage and PT sessions, you can visit 3m2m.co.uk.