Fuelling your marathon

Fuel your ambition and achieve your goal

At A Word On Nutrition we understand the commitment and determination it takes to push yourself to the limit in the quest to achieve your fitness goals. Poor nutrition has the capacity to ruin months of hard work and leave you in a heap on the floor well before the finish line. Planning and practice are essential to ensure your race day nutrition strategy gives you every chance of maximising your performance.

Practice makes perfect…

Eating a diet that supports your training demands on a daily basis is just as important as getting your fuelling strategy correct on race day. Eating the right foods at the right times will help you to adapt much quicker and get the most out of your training. Get it wrong, and you’re at risk of missing out on potential performance gains, illness or even worse, injury.

Training runs lasting longer than 60 minutes require nutritional support, as stored energy in your muscles will begin to deplete and the speed at which you can maintain will decline. Fuelling your muscles will boost your work rate and help you feel fresher for the next session.

Top training tips:

Focus on eating whole, fresh foods. If it grows, walks or swims – eat it!

  • Avoid processed junk food and fizzy drinks. These should be considered as treats rather than daily staples.
  • Spread your protein intake throughout the day. Protein sources such as lean cuts of meat, tofu, fish, eggs, low-fat milk, nuts and cheese are great.
  • Eat daily sources of low-GI, nutrient dense carbohydrate such as vegetables, fruits, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, quinoa, lentils and beans.
  • Include a potion of healthy fat in your diet very day. Good sources include oily fish, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts and olives.
  • Drink 2 litres of water per day.
  • Eat your main meal 2-4 hours before training. If you struggle to digest food, eat your main meal nearer 4 hours before your run.
  • Carry a drinks bottle containing a sports drink during your long run. This will help top up your energy levels and rehydrate. It’s also great practice for race day.
  • Refuel with high-GI carbohydrates and protein within an hour of finishing your run (……..)

Leave nothing to chance…

Your race day strategy should start 24-48 hours before the race. Carbohydrate loading is a research proven fuelling strategy designed to improve endurance performance. There have been many different protocols over the years but the simplest strategy is to increase your carbohydrate intake for 24-48 hours before the race to help boost energy stores.

For example, if you eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast, add some jam on toast and a glass of fruit juice. If you usually eat a cheese sandwich at lunch, change it to a jam or honey sandwich on thick sliced bread. If you’re eating chilli con carne in the evening, take one less spoonful of chilli and add another spoonful of rice or half a jacket potato.

  • Eat little and often throughout the day
  • Focus on easy to digest, high-GI carbohydrates
  • Eat carbohydrate snacks between meals (e.g. fruit, cereal bars, fruit bread, crumpets, muffins)
  • Eat main meals containing rice, pasta, potatoes, noodles, lentils, couscous
  • Use sports drinks during the day
  • Use concentrated forms of carbohydrates such as jam, honey, dried fruit, sweets and soft drinks to boost intake without feeling full.
  • Include a carbohydrate pudding after your evening meal (e.g. sponge, apple crumble with custard, rice pudding)

Race day nutrition

You need to work out the optimal time to eat breakfast – this really depends on individual preferences. Ideally, you should be aiming to eat 2-4 hours before the start. Examples include a large bowl of porridge (60g) with milk and handful of raisins, toast with jam and a glass of orange juice (200ml), Weetabix with milk and a banana and raisins, toast with ½ tin of baked beans or bagels with jam.

Eat a small snack containing 40 – 60 g of carbohydrate and drink 300 ml of fluid 1-2 hours before the start of your race. Great snack choices include:

  • Fruit smoothies
  • Fresh fruit juice (350ml)
  • Banana (~20 g CHO)
  • Low fat yoghurt (~20 g CHO)
  • Fruit bread (2 slices Soreen)
  • Small jam sandwich on white bread (40 – 50 g CHO)
  • Sports drink
  • Drink little and often throughout the race. Use sports drinks, water and gels to meet your fluid and fuel needs. Aim to consume 30-60g of carbohydrate per hour. A typical sports drink, gel or bar contains 20-35g of carbohydrate.

After the race aim to eat a carbohydrate snack with some protein within 60 minutes of finishing. Great examples include a peanut butter sandwich, chocolate milk, yoghurt with nuts and seeds or sports nutrition products such as recovery drinks or bars. You also need to replace the water and salts you’ve lost through sweating. Drink 500 ml of a sports drink or eat a salty snack such as pretzels whilst drinking water.