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FUELLING A MARATHON

By Samantha Mare


Pre-race build-up


Carbohydrates are our predominant energy source for any moderate to high-intensity activity, therefore increasing the amount of carbs in your diet for at least two days prior to the race is crucial. It is commonly recommended to consume 8-10g of carbs for every kilo of your body mass each day during this period.


Strategy: Consume extra portions of bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, energy bars and cereals. If you are finding it hard to achieve such high carb intakes from food alone, consuming carbohydrate drinks can help further increase your intake.


Additionally, recent research has shown that dietary nitrates (usually found in root vegetables such as beetroot) can improve endurance performance. They do this by reducing the oxygen cost of exercise and improving the efficiency by which our muscles produce energy.


Strategy: The nitrate content of root vegetables can vary significantly. Therefore, consuming two nitrate gels a day in the five days leading up to the event is an easy way to ensure you increase nitrate availability.


Race-day morning meal


If you have successfully carb- and nitrate-loaded in the days preceding the event, it is important not to make the mistake of over-eating in your pre-race meal. This meal should simply top up carb stores without leaving you feeling bloated and over-full before the race.


Strategy: A simple serving of porridge, wholemeal toast, a banana, and fruit juice 2-3 hours prior to the race is likely to be sufficient, though food choices should be tailored to what you are used to and prefer. Ensuring you are hydrated prior to the race is also vital.


Race fuelling


Stored carbohydrates can become depleted after 90 minutes of exercise. Consuming additional carbs during the race and staying hydrated is crucial to race performance. Carb drinks are beneficial as they provide carbohydrates as well as increase hydration levels. However, drinks can cause some runners to feel bloated and therefore prefer to consume carbs in the form of gels and stay hydrated by drinking electrolyte drinks to thirst.


Strategy: Make sure you have practiced all race strategies in training! Consume between 60-90g of carbs per hour. This can be in the form of gels, drinks or solids depending on personal preference. Additionally, consuming caffeine gels from around two hours left to complete may give both a physical and mental boost during the last hour when you really need it. Aim to drink around 500ml an hour to maintain hydration, however, if it is a particularly hot day, then you may need to drink more than 500ml of fluid per hour and this will likely be led by your thirst. It can be particularly difficult to drink enough fluids while running and relying on feed stations, so really make it a priority in your race strategy.


Carbohydrate content of some popular products:


Post-race recovery


After finishing the race, the primary goal is to replace energy stores used up and fluid lost as well as reduce any muscle damage and promote as much muscle repair as possible. In the post-race hype, it’s so easy to forget and go straight into celebrate mode, but recovery is key!


Strategy: Aim to take in 1.5 litres of fluid for every kilo of body mass lost during the race. Carbohydrates should be consumed as a mixture of drinks and solids at 90g per hour for at least three hours. To promote the best possible muscle recovery a minimum of 30g of protein should be consumed within 30 minutes of finishing the race.


Top tip: Pre-pack your post-race kit bag with ready-prepped carb-rich foods (sandwiches, pasta pots, yoghurts and even chocolate bars are all good choices) and a protein shake as part of your recovery strategy.


For more advice from our Performance Nutritionist, Sam, and to get customised tailored plans to you, get in touch on our website or on Instagram via:


@sams_running_smiles

@best.athletics

@therunningroom


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