Nutrition Marathon Day
October 27th may just be any other day. For those of you who have spent months tracking miles, setting early morning alarms, pounding footpaths and slugging water bottles… its finally here…marathon day! All the hard work is coming to an end and its just a few short miles between you and the finish line. With race day fast approaching its important that people remember one of the key determinants of race day outcome-Nutrition.
As a registered dietitian and a runner, I understand the importance of proper nutrition when it comes to performance.
Here are my top tips for optimum race day nutrition
1.Monitor fiber intake
Fibre is king when it comes to any healthy diet. It can help manage cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and bowel movements. However high fibre foods may lead to GI upset or cramping on race day. Its a good idea to avoid high fibre cereals, bread and grains the night before and the morning of the race.
Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrate that will fuel your long run. Its important to ensure glycogen stores in your muscles are stocked up before the race. You can “stock up” glycogen stores by ensuring the majority of your meals are based on carbohydrates, in the week leading up to the race. Foods like pasta, rice and potatoes are great sources of carbohydrates. For every extra gram of glycogen stored, the body stores 3grams of water. Therefore, you may find you gain a little extra weight the week before the race. Don't worry, its not all actual body weight.
3. Morning Meal
Breakfast is important everyday but especially marathon day. Aim to have a breakfast thats low in fibre, high in carbohydrate and contains a source of lean protein. Most seasoned runners try to eat 2-4hours before the start line. Porridge with milk, Yogurt with fruit, toast with fruit and nut butter are all suitable choices. If you feel like you need an additional snack 1 hour before the start line choose a 100-200kcals, carbohydrate based snack such as banana, granola bar or slice of toast. Eat what worked for you during your training runs.
4. Stick with your tried and true
Marathon training is all about practice. Race day is not a time to try new foods. There may be companies handing out samples of new products around the start line. Avoid these if possible and try to stick to what you are used to. Practicing your food routines during training routines is vital. Runners need to understand how their body reacts to foods at different times.
Proper hydration is crucial when it comes to crossing that finish line. Fluid intake should match fluid losses. Runners can ensure they are taking in enough fluid during training runs by weighing themselves before and after runs. Choosing an isotonic drink is great way to replenish fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates at the same time. Getting fluids right is a delicate balance. It is possible to drink too much fluid which can lead to hyponatremia (low sodium levels). Try to consume 100-150mls of fluid for every 15-20minutes of exercise. For most marathons, there will be water stations every 2-3 miles and lucozade stations at miles 11, 18 and 23. Try to alternative between isotonic fluids and water to stay on top of hydration.
6. Fueling your run
Training your body to accept food during exercise can be difficult. However if exercising longer than 60minutes, adequate fueling is critical. When exercising for longer than 60minutes, 30-60grams of carbohydrate (120kcals-240kcals) should be consumed per hour. Aim for fast acting forms of carbohydrates such as gels, jelly beans, sports drinks, sports bars. Experiment with different foods during your training season.
7. Post Race food
Crossing the line has to be one of the best feelings. To prevent injury and painful days ahead, its important to remember to refuel. Nutrition goals should be to refuel with carbohydrates, repair with protein and rehydrate with fluids and electrolytes. Aim for foods that are easy to consume and digest. Chocolate milk with an energy bar, Fruit smoothies, Greek yogurt with added fruit, are all great snacks to have within 30minutes of crossing the line. After all those weeks of watching your diet, your first reaction may be to reach for a burger or pizza. Try to have a healthy balanced meal with 2-3 hours of finishing the race. Meals like a baked potato with tuna, Chicken wrap with salad, or spaghetti bolognese are all great choices. Continue to sip on water and electrolytes over the next 1-2 days to replenish your fluids.
Taking some of the these tips on board may help you cross that line just a little bit quicker. However important nutrition is, it is just one piece of the puzzle. Preparation, training and attitude all play a role in successful race day outcome.
Best of luck to all runners!