5 key marathon diet and nutrition tips

If you've been training for a marathon, nutrition is one of the most important areas that you need to pay attention to. Adventure journalist Tobias Mews offers the following advice on fuelling your long runs.

5 key marathon diet and nutrition tips

1. You are what you eat

There is absolutely no point in pounding the pavements for months on end, if you’re shovelling junk food into your body. You’re only going to make things more difficult for yourself and put all your hard work to waste. The first step should be a healthy and nutritious diet, followed by a good training plan.

2. Practice race day nutrition

Now is the time you should be testing out what energy gels, bars and drinks work for you when you’re out running. The reason why so many people have trouble taking on gels during a marathon is because they didn’t practice with them beforehand, by training their gut to absorb concentrated carbohydrates.

Find out now what race fuel will be available on the day and go buy some samples to test out on your long runs. You’ll then know whether you can stomach them and how many you can take each hour without having tummy troubles. For more on race day nutrition click here

3. Stay hydrated

Most of us know that we can survive for quite a long time without food, but we can’t survive more than a day or two without water. So it makes sense that if you want to get the most out of your training, then you need to stay hydrated, before, during and after exercise. But how much water should we take on board?

This depends upon numerous variables such as your body weight, individual sweat rates, temperature, altitude and of course the duration and intensity of exercise. A good way of determining whether you're sufficiently hydrated is to either look at the colour of your urine (dark yellow =  not good) and/or to work out your sweat loss by weighing yourself before and after exercise (ideally lasting an hour, if you’re running).

If your weight has increased after you’ve run, then you might have taken on too much water, which can lead to hyponatraemia (also = not good). But if you have a 2 per cent or greater reduction in weight, then you’re dehydrated (definitely NOT good) and need to replace the lost fluids.

4. Carbs, protein and fat

Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of energy and what you’ll rely on when running - but don’t go overboard. Indeed, roughly 60 per cent of our diet should come from carbs, which when in training, translates to about 5-7 grams of carbs per kg of bodyweight. 

However, we also need protein in our diet to rebuild our muscles after a tough training session and some fat to give us energy when running at a lower intensity, as well as a sprinkle of vitamins and minerals to ensure we stay healthy.

5. Recovery is key

A fairly common experience is that when your mileage increases each week, you become increasingly tired (and hungry). One way to combat this problem is to ensure you eat within 20 minutes of finishing your run, especially if it’s a long one.

By eating a high protein, carbohydrate snack or recovery shake, you’ll quickly repair the damage to your muscles and replenish your depleted carbohydrate stores, ensuring you’re ready for the next day.

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