Nutrition Tips for Training
Written by: Sloan Taylor, Sports Dietitian
MS, CSSD, RD/LD
1. Plan ahead what high carb items you will eat the day before your long training runs. Most people know to carb load the night before but they forget that lunch the same day before a long run is just as important.
2. Eat your breakfast with plenty of time to digest before running. In a perfect world, that would be 2 hours before your run. If you can't/don't get up in time (or don't live in a perfect world) then make sure you eat something small at least one hour before your run. A piece of toast with orange juice, or half a bagel with peanut butter would be an example. Liquid is the quickest to empty the stomach, so a thin smoothie or juice will count too.
3. Determine now before race day what carb gel brands and flavors that you like and tolerate. Waiting until race day to experiment is bad advice and can be a bad experience. Don't jeopardize your race, experiment now during training runs.
4. Pick at least one other portable food item to run with. Energy replacement items besides carb gels include electrolyte jelly beans, electrolyte gummy pieces, and common small candies. Candy works well and miniature sizes can fit into your marathon short pockets or jacket. Check out the Halloween candy available at this time and pick out your favorites to experiment with.
5. Avoid a high-fat or an extremely high fiber meal the night a long distance run to avoid intestinal distress.
6. Practice long runs with drink breaks. Determine and be aware of how much liquid you can tolerate. Again, don't experiment on race day but be prepared.
7. Begin replacing your glycogen stores within 30 minutes after finishing your long distance runs. Research indicates that recovery can be promoted if carbs are available to the muscle cells within that timeframe. Aim to eat a carb snack (liquid or solid) when you finish your run. Good choices include fruit, fruit juice, bread (bagels, toast, etc), granola bars, pretzels, etc. The carbs you eat at this time do not prevent muscle soreness but they do promote the muscles to begin their recovery process sooner.
8. Aim to have a carb-rich meal with protein as the first meal after the run. Glycogen stores still need to be replaced and the body will utilize the carbs well. Protein is important to provide the body so muscle repair can begin. Suggestions include Chinese food with chicken, grilled fish with rice, chicken and pasta, rice and beans, etc.
9. Celebrate your long distance run at the second meal of the day (not the first). If you decide you want a high-fat meal then make it dinner and not lunch.
10. Treat each and every meal as an important component of your marathon training, especially the closer you get to race day. Avoid skipping meals and remember that your body uses the calories you eat to perform well. You are asking your body to do something extraordinary so remember to treat it well!