Whether you are gearing up for your first ½ marathon or this is your 3rd, you should know that the proper nutrition is just as important as your tempo runs, long runs and rest days. Think of nutrition like a car. You can’t get far with half a tank of gas or even worse an empty tank! Nutrition shouldn’t be complicated. It is all about eating WHOLE foods in the right amounts.
Nutrition shouldn’t be complicated. It is all about eating WHOLE foods in the right amounts.
What our body requires are specific macro nutrients!
These consist of 3 things:
Runners require a higher amount of Carbohydrates which are responsible for supplying glycogen (the fuel stored in our muscles). Glycogen is like the gas you put in your car, the better carb you choose, the better you will perform. It is important to make sure that not only do you eat enough carbs before you go for your run but to make sure you consume quick acting carbohydrates during it and especially post to ensure your muscles have adequate amounts of energy. A huge component in preventing what runners call “bonking”.
Bonking is the dreaded condition when you run out of energy, your muscles start to cramp, and your legs feel like bricks. Bonking (hitting the wall) happens when your muscles have run out of glycogen!
What you eat pre, during and post runs leading up to race day will determine that amount of glycogen stores you have. Glycogen will slowly accumulate in your muscles. Ideally, you want to start to gradually increase your carbohydrate consumption around two weeks before your race. Between 80-95% of your food intake should be good, clean sources of complex carbohydrates (whole grains, vegetables, fruits).
There are lots of pre-race rituals out there, including the large carb meal the night before. However, I don’t agree with “carb loading” the night before a race. The reason being, your muscles are only absorbing 30 % of those carbs before your liver ends up storing them as fat. Eating something heavy the night before or something new can also leave you feeling full, lethargic from the large amounts of carbs your body is trying to break down and even nauseous on race day
That’s is where the importance of planning out your nutrition a head of time comes in. You can slowly and efficiently build up your glycogen stores leading to better run times, better recovery times and reduced injuries or burn outs.
So where should you start with your nutrition? Let’s keep it simple and break it down into the three critical areas:
Your Pre- Run nutrition should be consumed at least 2-3 hours before your race. This meal should be around 3-400 calories and contain at least 30-50grams of carbohydrates. Ideally, you want to focus on a higher carb meal, with minimal protein or fat as they digest slowly and can hinder some of your energy. Your body needs fast absorbing carbohydrates that will spike your insulin levels and sends fuel to the working muscles that need it. If you are running a longer distance, try having a quick snack and water 30-45 minutes before your race can be beneficial. (sports gel, banana slices, chews)
Although there are plenty of race day fuel gels, chews and even sports recovery drink out there; I don’t like to use them. Most of them filled with un-natural ingredients, way too much sugar, can cause stomach upset, decay your teeth and have added colouring. If these products appeal to you, make sure you try them before your race. Don’t try anything new race day!
Though we receive a lot of our nutrients through our food, I also like to incorporate the use of supplements. The stress of training can take a toll on our bodies and as a Sports Nutritionist & Triathlete, I have found supplementing while training very effective. Here are a few of my favourite Organika products:
The last important detail for your race nutrition is hydration. Hydration is crucial for electrolyte balance, muscle fatigue/cramping, and your energy levels. Although there are hydration stations every few km’s, by the time you are feeling thirsty, it often already means your body is dehydrated. It is highly recommended to make sure that you stay well hydrated daily, especially a few days leading up to your race.
Here are a few tips to stay hydrated:
Think of your nutrition in the same importance as your runs. The more you do it and stay on target, the easier it gets. Planning and finding what works for you is the best advice I can give. Keep your nutrition simple and uncomplicated. Focus on understanding what foods do what to your body, and pay attention to how you feel after you eat certain foods. Keep a food log, that way you can go back to see what you ate when you lethargic, cramps or had enough energy to keep going. These tools will help you perform your best on race day!
http://www.halfmarathons.net/nutrition-the-other-half-of-your-training-plan/ – by Carrissa Liebowitz
https://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/running/tips/runners-foods-to-eat/ – Fuel for your run: Nutrition for training and racing by Yael Lipton.