Nutrition for running Posted on 1 Jul 17:30 , 1 comment

I'm training for a marathon. What foods should I eat while I'm doing long training runs, and competing in the marathon itself?


Your day-to-day diet plays a huge role in exercise recovery and helps prevent stress fractures or iron depletion leading up to the race. Week by week your body has to adapt to a progressively harder training load, so your diet needs to provide sufficient energy and nutrients for the following reasons.


1. Provide adequate carbohydrate to keep your muscles full of glycogen (fuel)


2. Maintain hydration


3. Replace calories (energy)


4. Prevent loss of lean mass (bones and muscle)


5. Calcium and iron replacement


6. Meet all essential nutrient needs (Vitamins, Minerals and Essential fats)


7. Race at a realistic target body fat percentage.


Meeting your daily calorie (energy) budget and timing your meals is one of the most important factors of a good training diet. Depending on your training load you’ll need 6-10 grams of carbohydrate per kilo of bodyweight per day. Put simply you’ll need to make sure that 55-65% of your daily calorie budget is coming from healthy carbohydrates. Healthy carbohydrates are oats, potato, kumara, fruit, whole grains, rice, pumpkin, bananas, peaches, whole-grain bread, baked beans, ryvitas and some low fat health bars.


You’ll also need to include low fat protein through out the day. Protein aids recovery and protects the immune system. Endurance athletes require 1.5 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day. So if you weigh 70 kilos you’ll need 105 grams. Spread your protein intake over the day, 5-6 meals of about 15 – 25 g of protein will do.


Always start you training in a well-hydrated state.


If your run is longer than an hour use a long chain carbohydrate drink, gel or bar to provide additional fuel plus electrolytes


For long runs you will need to consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour.


Eat a meal containing both carbohydrates and protein as soon as possible after running, preferably within 30 minutes.


On the day of your race, your best option is a sports drink that contains about 5-8 % carbohydrate and electrolytes, followed by solid foods or bars that have been practiced during training.


Many runners find that flat coke (which contains caffeine) works wonders during the last hour of the marathon.


To keep yourself in top shape, get individual advice from a nutritionist. Your aim should be to carry a healthy level of body fat, to maintain muscle and bone density and to provide your body with all of the nutritional building blocks to keep you functioning like a well-oiled machine.