What to eat when training for a half marathon

Good nutrition is an essential aspect of running fitness. In the run up to a race nail your diet and you'll be halfway to running your first half marathon.

What to eat when training for a half marathon

Calorie counting 

How much should I eat? It’s a common worry amongst runners of all levels. If you are upping your mileage significantly, you will need to eat more to compensate for this. Even if you are trying to lose weight, cut calories too much and you risk negative effects on your performance and health.

If you are maintaining a stable weight and have enough energy for training, you are probably doing just fine. However, if your weight is changing more than you'd like and you feel tired, check your calorie needs against what you are actually consuming. 

Time your carb intake

Although low carb diets seem to be in vogue right now, it's not a good idea to follow one if you’ve started training for a half marathon. While you don’t need to stuff yourself with plates of pasta, eating carbohydrates around your more intense sessions will help you to perform optimally. Consider a carbohydrate-based meal 3-4 hours before or a small snack 1-2 hours before.

Eat enough protein

Protein is key to helping you recover from training and improve further. Ensure that all of your meals and snacks contain a good source of protein. It’s particularly important to include protein in your post-run snack and meal. Chocolate milk is a great source of both protein and carbs and will help with recovery.

Don’t skimp on fat

Even if you are looking to lose weight, don’t cut fat from your diet. You need fat for healthy hormone function, injury prevention and recovery. Include a source of fat with all of your meals; nuts, olives and cheese. Obviously, don’t go overboard if you are looking to lose weight but replacing sugary, low - fat snacks with less processed snacks that contain real sources of fat is a good idea.

Practice race day nutrition

Eating something you've never tried before on race day is a recipe for disaster. Work out what you are going to eat before your event and try this at least once in training before the big day. That way, you’ll know that your meal of choice won’t negatively affect your PB chances.

Try a fasted workout

Although there are definite benefits to taking on carbohydrates before your more intense runs, it’s worth doing some easy runs where you haven’t fuelled optimally. This will teach your body to work more efficiently in a low energy situation (like you would encounter in a race).

More experienced runners can try getting up and heading out for a 30-45 minute easy run without having breakfast first. Make sure you eat a good, balanced breakfast when you get back.

Good luck!

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