By UK Personal Trainer | Maziar Ajtar
If you’re preparing to run your first marathon, it’s important to know how to properly fuel your body with the right nutrition to get the most out of your runs and to give you enough energy to avoid “hitting the wall”.
To help you out I’ve compiled a list of none-restrictive tips that I’ve personally found useful for myself and clients for marathon training prep.
Including an adequate amount of protein in your diet during prep will help to boost your energy! The macronutrient protein:
✓ Helps to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates
✓ Reduces the glyceamic index of your meal
✓ Encourages energy to be released slowly and steadily instead of in a quick burst – which is perfect for the long slow duration principle of marathons.
Meat eaters: Lean meats, – chicken, turkey and red meats, Greek yoghurt, cheese etc.
Non-meat eaters: Beans, lentils, nuts, tofu, soy, green leafy vegetables etc.
Protein for recovery
✓ Whey is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids. It’s absorbed quickly in to the body and is vital in muscle recovery, so a whey protein shake is a great option post-workout. Also try and add some Whey protein into your breakfast as it helps to halt the catabolic state your body has been in whilst you sleep.
✓ Casein is a slow releasing protein and is ideal to take before bed, as it will aid in reducing muscle breakdown while you sleep, thus helping with recovery. You could have a casein shake or try mixing it with Greek yoghurt – another great source of protein!
#2 Energy gels during long runs
Your body will be screaming out for replenishment during long distance running sessions – but no-one will want to promote a bad stomach from eating solid food mid-run!
✓ Energy gels can be life-saving when you’re becoming extremely fatigued – just make sure to try these out before the big day to ensure your body will handle them well!
#3 Beet juice
If you like beet juice try drinking some a few hours before running.
✓ It’s full of dietary nitrates, which can help blood vessels dilate, therefore increasing blood flow to muscles during exercise. This may in turn enhance your performance!
#4 Snack on cherries
Cherries are considered to be an antioxidant-rich fruit, which can provide a range of health benefits!
✓ The fruits natural anti-inflammatory components can be considered beneficial for post-workout consumption.
This may help to reduce muscle pain following a long distance run.
#5 Amino Acids
When exercising regularly the demand for Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) is increased.
BCAAs are needed by the body to help promote protein synthesis for muscle growth, therefore helping to maintain muscle mass whilst marathon training! The likelihood of injury may also be reduced by the prevention of muscle breakdown.
#6 Use milk in your protein shakes
Milk is loaded with carbohydrates and protein, which makes it ideal for endurance athletes to have in their post workout shake to help with muscle recovery.
✓ When carbohydrates and proteins are consumed together, muscle tissues are repaired at a faster rate than if consumed separately.
#7 Eat Wild Salmon
Salmon is a nutrient dense protein; it contains vitamins B12 and B6, alongside essential Omega-3 fatty acids.
✓ The high omega 3 content may help reduce inflammation in our bodies, which is valuable whilst marathon training.
#8 Don’t start carb loading the night before
Piling in plates of pasta the night before the marathon will shock your body and most likely make you feel heavy and groggy whilst running. On top of this, it’s likely your body will not have stored the carbs as muscle glycogen in time for the race.
✓ Fuel your body with carbs throughout your training. I recommend that for the week before the marathon, exercise should be reduced but diet should be kept the same; this should then provide enough muscle glycogen stored up to support your training!
#9 Use Electrolyte powder
Essential electrolytes are necessary for many human functions but are lost through sweat during exercise.
✓ Excessive loss can massively hinder performance so it’s important to replenish electrolytes with a powder when running long distances.
#10 Have porridge for breakfast
Porridge is a nourishing food as it:
✓ Has a high soluble fibre content
✓ Is high in complex carbohydrates (slow-release energy, rather than simple carbohydrates that promote a short, quick energy release).
✓ Is a good source of protein and has a low Glyceamic Index, providing a sustained release of energy into the bloodstream—so it’s perfect to eat before a run.
✓ Try mixing in some Cacao Powder for an extra energy boost and topping with banana for a delicious breakfast.
Take home message
Every individual is different so find the foods that work for you.
Don’t add anything new into your diet just before the marathon, as you don’t know how your body will react.